Friday, April 27, 2012 by Kathy Means
Harness the power of collaboration
The internet is changing how we work, live, and communicate, but it is also changing business – how we innovate, create products and services, and interact with customers and suppliers. Anthony D. Williams, a keynote speaker at the recent Canadian Produce Marketing Association convention in Calgary, told attendees how they could immerse themselves in technology and get benefits for their business, personal, and social lives. Williams, co-author of Macrowikinomics and Wikinomics, said these new ways of interacting are also changing education, health care, government, and political engagement.
Collaboration, openness and sharing are the three principles of “wikinomics,” he said.
He spoke of the new fabric of connectivity: social consequences, the changing nature of society and human communities. No longer does your life include those you meet in business or in your geographic community. You can form communities around any shared interest, goal, or idea. He noted how many successful endeavors are being built by volunteers who gather around a common concept (Wikipedia, Linux operating system, etc.). These are not just about free information or open source programming; they are about a different kind of business model. Some companies, when faced with a conundrum go beyond their internal R&D departments and seek solutions outside the company. They send the issue out to their networks and get solutions. Williams called it extraordinary sharing for extraordinary challenges. Another example is the apps for iPhones. Apple doesn’t develop the apps; it offers a platform for innovation. Apple doesn’t have to pay the developers, just share the profits.
Every business decision doesn’t work this way, and Williams said you have to assess the right circumstances for this type of solution. And, he said, this is a big advantage for small and medium sized companies as it allows them to compete with the big guys. They can have global reach and tap talent pools around the world. They don’t have to create infrastructure for themselves, they can use Google apps, communication from Skype, and remote staffers.
Williams likened this time to the time of the invention of the printing press. Putting knowledge into the hands of the people empowered them to think differently and forever changed feudal economies and the concentrated power of monarchies and the church. The current version of democratizing knowledge led to the Arab Spring and powerful transparency is evident in Wikileaks. On a more local level, it means that after a medical diagnosis, you may go into your doctor far better-informed and prepared to participate more fully in your treatment.
So, how can you get into this? Williams suggested:
- On Twitter, follow the leaders of topics you’re interested in. They are often ahead of the curve, ahead of the media, and innovators. Then share your own knowledge to inform others.
- Immerse yourself in the future. Experiment with Wikipedia and contribute where you have expertise.
- Get serious about innovation – make it a priority. Encourage risk taking, embrace suggestions from any level in the company, give people time to create.
- Challenge a community (however you define it) to solve a problem.
- Put your customers on your design team.
- Recruit young people to lead change – and let them do it.
How are you embracing collaboration? Tell us about it on PMA Xchange, where you can collaborate with other members and PMA staff experts on a wide variety of topics.