The Internet is not just about social networking, it has morphed into a new mode of production, said Don Tapscott, author of ‘Wikinomics: how mass collaboration changes everything.’
“The new Web is part of a profound change in how we orchestrate capability in society to create goods and services,” said Tapscott, also the chief executive of New Paradigm, a Toronto-based think tank focused on business innovation in the global economy.
During a keynote this week in Toronto, Tapscott discussed the transformation of the Internet from a static broadcast medium to one that’s being reinvented by organizations and people of all ages.
The event was hosted by the Toronto Chapter of Wired Woman Society, a Vancouver-based organization that encourages women in technology to build successful careers by providing them with education, mentorship and networking opportunities.
The reinvention of the Web, he said, has created a platform for mass collaboration across blogs, wikis and peer-to-peer networks, for instance.
This collaborative environment will change how corporations innovate and interact with the rest of the world, he said, but more importantly, companies that adapt to these new principles will be the ones that thrive.
Tapscott outlined four main drivers behind this age of mass collaboration “that is rattling windows and shaking walls of every corporation and institution.”
First, there’s the emergence of Web 2.0, which is often perceived as a second generation of Internet-based services, such as wikis, social networking sites, and communication tools.
“Your big brother’s Internet was all about the presentation of information. Now the rise of the new Web 2.0 is based on XML, the standard for computation,” Tapscott said.
“The Web is becoming a giant programmable computer.”
Tapscott said programming the Web and allowing people to “self-organize” across it leads to the creation of virtual communities around the globe. “Rather than the desktop, you see the rise of the Web top.”
The second driver of this trend, he said, is the advent of the ‘Net Generation,’ or as Tapscott put it, the first generation to grow up digital, with no fear of technology.
“When your daughter is chatting online she’s not thinking, ‘wow, this synchronous, text-based, real-time communication mode is really great.’ She’s thinking about what her friend said.”
Members of the Net Generation are not passive recipients of someone else’s broadcast video, he said. Rather they are collaborating, authenticating, composing their thoughts, scrutinizing, and organizing information.
The third driver, Tapscott said, is the social revolution, which, as the product of Web 2.0 and the Net Generation, is producing individuals who self organize on the Internet to co-innovate and create value.
These three drivers, in turn, create the fourth: an economic revolution. According to Tapscott, a corporation’s mode of operation is beginning to shift toward one based on openness, ‘peering’, sharing, and acting globally.
In particular, operating a business in an open market, maintaining a global scope, and sharing intellectual property (IP) with peers outside the organization will ultimately result in lower collaboration costs, said the chief executive.
“Collaboration costs are dropping so much now that peers within and between companies, and outside boundaries of the traditional hierarchy can come together to work together and create things.”
Transparency, he added, builds high-metabolism business models.
Instead of a single business entity, mass collaboration means individual agents will come together to improve, cooperate and solve problems, said Tapscott.
He cited the example of GoldCorp Inc., a Vancouver-based mining company that published its IP on the Internet in an effort to source a strategy that would locate gold in its mine sites.
The company launched a worldwide contest offering half a million dollars in prize money for the top three submissions.
“For a half-million-dollar investment, the owner found $3.4 billion dollars worth of gold,” said Tapscott. GoldCorp’s strategy, he added, was to source ideas from peers external to the field of geology.
“The company opened up the boundaries of the corporation. It viewed the world as its geology department.”
Although mass collaboration is not an entirely new approach to business, it’s becoming more prevalent and far-reaching, Yasmin Ranade, president of Wired Women Society’s Toronto chapter told IT World Canada.
“Business has always been collaborative, the difference now is that sharing of innovations, insights and strategies is happening at a much greater speed, with broader participation at all levels within and outside organizations. Those that get it will have the advantage.”
Shifting the way a corporation conducts business won’t be a hiccup-free road, said Tapscott, “given that leaders of the old paradigm tend to be the last to embrace the new.”
He said these things often cause dislocation, disruption and they’re nearly always received with coolness.
Other examples of mass collaboration, he cited, are the Human Genome Project, and the Chinese Motorcycle industry.