Wikinomics – Mass Collaboration Is Coming Your Way

Last week Michel-Adrien Sheppard pointed out the new book Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. I was so impressed with some of the Globe and Mail columns that Michel-Adrien pointed to in his post that I ran out, bought the book, and started reading it immediately. Then I heard about the book launch taking place at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto last night, and invited myself along. Well, I didn’t exactly crash the party, but let’s just say I didn’t have an invitation to the invitation-only event.

Wikinomics book cover The book itself is not just about wikis, but about how mass collaboration is making great changes to organizations and, as a result, society and the economy. So-called Web 2.0 is one catalyst for the change. We’re really at the cusp of the enterprise changing, and authors Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams have some solid real-world examples of how this is happening. The first example they give is how Goldcorp, Inc., a Canadian gold mining company, opened up its private, proprietary data (something definitely unheard of in the mining industry) and asked people around the world for help finding gold on their own land. Anyone giving them the most successful information would get a cut of the profit. The experiment was hugely successful, with expertise coming from around the world and unexpected places. Much more gold was found from a number of different locations in what was previously thought to be a “finished” mine. The first chapter of the book is available from the website if you want to read the full story.

I fully expect this book to be the must-read business book of the season, picking up where my favourite from last year, The World is Flat, left off. Only two weeks after release, it is already hitting the New York Times and Globe and Mail bestsellers list, and has sold more than Don Tapscott’s previous bestseller The Naked Corporation did in four years.

The book launch at Rotman was quite exciting. It was a sold-out event, with 500-plus people in the auditorium-like main floor of the Rotman School. It was an interesting mix of high-level business executives, consultants, cool techies, and MBA students. Introductions and kudos for the book were delivered by Roger Martin, Dean of Rotman, the President of the book’s publisher Penguin Canada [why don’t they have executive listed on their website?], Gordon Nixon, President and CEO of RBC Canada, and Michael McCain, President and CEO of Maple Leaf Foods. Both authors, the high-profile Don Tapscott and the up-and-comer Anthony D. Williams, of course also spoke. Williams told us a story to put the book into context, and Tapscott spoke about the success of the book thus far.

All of this has, of course, got me excited and thinking even more about how these concepts should be applied to our work, whether it be administrating a law firm, a law library, a law faculty, or teaching legal research. We’re definitely doing a lot of it with this initiative on Slaw, but where else can this take us? And I’m coming around to Simon Chester’s call for innovation in law. But I note that all of this is leading to smaller organizations as I talked about in my comments to his post back in August.

But I digress. Run–don’t walk–to get a copy of this book. If you are a leader in your organization you are going to need to know about this to not be left behind!

Cross-posted to my personal blog.


  1. I just hit upon an article by Richard Susskind from November which answers, at least in part, my question as to how all of this will affect law firms.

    See: “Electronic Path to Legal Evolution” from Legal Week.

    Some choice quotes:

    “In the coming decade, I believe legal practice will be transformed by two related phenomena — commoditisation and online community.”

    “What kinds of legal communities will emerge? Vitally, there will be communities of clients. Legal departments will coalesce electronically into groups that use their collective purchasing power to secure better legal services at lower costs.

    “Clients will even come to share the advice they receive with fellow members of their communities. Legal advice will be recycled among clients, whereas recycling today is confined to the reuse of materials within individual firms (aka knowledge management). Large collections of advice will build up, not simply in arid libraries but interleaved with online commentary and discussion.

    “Client communities will also encourage law firms to come together and form their own communities, as the Banking Legal Technology Group has done in London — in 2003, nine investment banks asked five major firms to collaborate in providing a single knowledge portal for these clients.

    “Meanwhile, individual clients will establish virtual legal functions, made up of the law firms in their panels and their own legal departments. Lawyers from different firms will work as closely alongside one another as part of these communities as they do with their own colleagues.

    “These online communities, like commoditisation, present profound challenges for conventional legal businesses. Imaginative firms will embrace the opportunities they present, while the rest will wither.”