As the internet continues to evolve, mass collaboration becomes an even more key feature. Indeed, when the internet was first conceptualized, it was thought of as a “digital newspaper,” but today it functions more like a “shared canvas” where each user can leave their own mark.
The core principles of mass collaboration are openness, peering, sharing and acting globally.
Both sides of the collaboration must be open to each other. This means having a willingness to let external talents contribute, thereby making collaborations possible.
Secondly, there’s peering – a method of production that utilizes flat hierarchies and self-organization where individuals voluntarily contribute to the work as a whole. Peering aids mass collaboration by increasing a product’s value and motivating interested individuals to volunteer their labor and join in the effort. Sharing, or providing others with access to your information and resources, allows individual members of mass collaborations to further their own inventions and allow for thriving innovations.
Today’s open markets make collaboration possible on a massive scale never before seen. This requires all participants in collaboration to act globally, meaning that they coordinate their staff and strategies in a way that promotes a unified whole instead of slicing the production into many local branches that are essentially duplicates of one another.
The growing demands of a globalized economy mean that companies must massively collaborate or die.
Companies that don’t adequately adopt the principles of mass collaboration will ultimately be left in the dust; they simply won’t be able to produce enough value quickly enough, and would also lose the interest of the consumer. Mass collaboration helps companies not only to better develop their products but also to better market them to their customers.
The low production costs of emerging forces like China and India, who offer quality services and products for only a fraction of prices found in the West, makes it unlikely that companies that don’t incorporate global collaboration could survive the competition in the industries.
However, it’s not the large pool of participants, and therefore the larger number of ideas, that lead mass collaborations to produce innovations; rather, they produce innovations because their contributors themselves are motivated and diverse, which makes it easier to match talents with certain tasks.
With all these benefits in mind, mass collaborations readily become a “must” for companies who want to be market leaders, but mass collaboration also carries an element of risk – if you’re not careful.
Although mass collaboration offers many benefits, it also involves risks.
When collaborating with external partners, you simply can’t assume that they’ll have the same amount of credibility and work ethics as you do. Since mass collaborations often peer productions, a company can’t count on the same work ethics as they’d enjoy in-house; their contributors simply can’t and won’t deliver the same kind of work as an employee.
Companies should find a balance between protecting their intellectual property and opening up to mass collaboration.
Therefore it makes sense to avert risk by withholding a certain amount of information; after all, collaborators today can easily turn into competitors tomorrow. Companies can also make use of mass collaboration without ever endangering their products by using external resources and inviting the help of active consumers, dubbed “prosumers.”
The internet platform InnoCentive, which functions as an “eBay for innovation,” allows anonymous companies to take advantage of external resources by revealing the exact nature of a specific R&D problem, which the contributors then try to solve.
The production and work process itself must be adequate for these strategies. Decentralization and encouragement of self-initiative are essential.
Effective collaboration starts in-house – indeed, the implementation of the principles of mass collaboration within one’s own organization is as important as finding good global partners. As the complexity of work and the expectations placed on employees continues to grow, giving autonomy to the workforce and welcoming enthusiasm in all its forms becomes an increasingly valuable in-house strategy. Indeed, vertical hierarchies prove counter-productive to the creative types of work, for example, which is often executed in teams.
This results in lower transaction costs and increased profits, as well as innovations and generally greater product value.
Companies that partner with universities can take advantage of differing perspectives, thus helping them to not only focus on a single solution to a problem but also remain open to many solutions. Mass collaborations also drive innovation by making it easier to find the very best person for the job: because people make willing, voluntary contributions to their collaboration, they are therefore more creative and successful.
Mass collaboration changes the way society as a whole function.
The digital era has changed the way people think and therefore the way society as a whole function. Indeed, the “Net Generation,” which has grown up amid ever-developing technology, has its own unique values, such as an emphasis on personal rights, co-creation of media content and skeptical views of authority, while valuing qualities like speed, transparency, and playfulness. See six must-have skills of the future.
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About the book
Wikinomics shows how Wikipedia-like mass collaboration of individuals is revolutionizing society and business, and why this is actually good for companies and the public.
Don Tapscott is a Canadian business executive and consultant who has written more than 15 books, including the best-selling Paradigm Shift.
Anthony D. Williams is a consultant and researcher as well as the vice president and executive editor at New Paradigm.