Book Talk: Macrowikinomics

A New Approach to Business for Our Networking World

The world has changed, but has your business? The premise of Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World is that we need to embrace our interconnectedness and harness the power of technology and the social Web to tackle big problems and grow 21st-century businesses:

Wikinomics has gone beyond a business or a technology trend to become a more encompassing societal shift… Wikinomics, defined as the art and science of mass collaboration in business, becomes macrowikinomics: the application of wikinomics and its core principles to society and all of its institutions.

Authors Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams posit that successful organizations must embrace five principles to succeed in this new environment: collaboration, openness, sharing, integrity, and interdependence. They then explore how these principles are already being applied in a variety of sectors, including banking and finance, transportation, health care, education, media, and government.

The value of Macrowikinomics isn’t just that Tapscott and Williams lay down markers for how to do this work. It’s that they provide numerous examples of organizations that are putting the power of collaboration and openness to work:

  • In response to the black box modeling and lack of transparency that brought the financial system to the brink of collapse in 2008, The Open Models Company has developed a collaborative online modeling platform to assess the value and soundness of various financial instruments.
  • Local Motors stands in stark contrast to the slow-to-move auto giants of the 20th century. It’s a crowdsouced online platform for custom designed and built automobiles. “You can think of Local Motors like a Dell for the auto industry,” write the authors, “ with its highly configurable direct sales model, low inventory, and active customer engagement.”
  • If you suffered from a rare disease, you would traditionally have had to rely on (1) identifying a really good doctor and (2) the data put out by pharmaceutical companies. With PatientsLikeMe, you can now tap into a community of people also are researching options, sharing information, and looking for answers. “What makes PatientsLikeMe effective,” write the authors, “is the way it aggregates the data from its members, both for the benefit of individual members and for scientific research.”

Macrowikinomics isn’t a short book with pithy takeaways. It’s that rare business book that’s big, meaty, and worth pouring over. The authors point out that “small companies can have many of the same capabilities as large companies without the main liabilities—bureaucracy, legacy cultures, antiquated systems, and old ways of working… As more small firms exploit the Web for new resources, they can gain unprecedented access to global markets previously enjoyed by only the largest corporations.” 

Macrowikinomics is all about innovation, which is why I think it’s a must-read for entrepreneurs.

Reviewed by Daria Steigman, founder of Steigman Communications, LLC and author of the Independent Thinking Blog.

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