Unlocking the prodigious power of ‘mass collaboration’


Mass collaboration, according to Don Tapscott, describes a theory which is changing the way people conduct business. Or rather, the ability to collaborate with many is changing the way we conduct business, the way we interact with each other, the way we look for new business opportunities.

This collaboration occurs in a borderless economy, thanks largely to the Internet technology.

His book, entitled Wikinomics: Harnessing the Power of Mass Collaboration, was published at the onset of 2007 and is popular among many business leaders.

Based upon his opening keynote presentation Wednesday at the IT360 conference in Toronto (which is just the first chapter of the book, by his own admission) the premise outlines the four key drivers for this trend: information technology, the “Net” generation, social revolution and the economic revolution.

The theory of mass collaboration, according to Tapscott, is “the knowledge, resources, and computing power of billions of people self organizing through blogs, wikis and peer to peer networks, into a massive collective force.”

This trend has already started to emerge. Citing successful initiatives from organizations such as MySpace, Craigslist, Flickr, Wikipedia, IBM and Goldcorp, organizations have already begun to embrace the theories espoused by Tapscott and his colleagues.

Information technology enables this collaborative activity, through features such as broadband mobility, widespread internet access, and XML formatting. The “Net” generation helps boost online collaboration.

This is the generation who grew up with the computers, with IT and with the Internet. They are pool resources by nature and therefore have a unique way of approaching ideas, work and life, thanks for their online experience. With online content vehicles such as MySpace and Craigslist, people can create and organize content, and use the sites as a social network.

Finally, there is the economic revolution which is unfolding with this combination of IT, the “Net” generation and the social revolution. Opportunities emerge for people to work with others, regardless of locations or national borders, through technology. This results in enhanced business opportunities, improving business operations and processes.

I’m not sure which came first, Tapscott’s idea of mass collaboration, the research to prove the theory, or the idea for organizations to look outside of their doors to reach a new audience, both in selling products and in developing new ideas.

However, Tapscott’s presentation was an invigorating way to kick off the inaugural IT360 conference, especially considering the integral manner in which technology affects the concept of mass collaboration, and therefore the significant role our industry plays in the future of business practices.

Michelle Warren is a senior analyst at Info-Tech Research of London, Ont.


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