Emily Holbrook


December 1, 2010

In a time when companies, and even individuals, are rethinking their purpose and how to succeed with innovation in tough economic times, Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams are addressing the conundrum in Macrowikinomics, a title that, according to the authors, means "the art and science of mass collaboration in business." Expanding on a topic presented in their 2006 book Wikinomics, the pair stress the importance of letting go of industrial-era paradigms and moving towards a business world immersed in collaborative innovation, telling readers to "use the opportunity that the digital revolution presents to rethink and rebuild all of the old approaches and institutions that are failing."

Tapscott, chairman of the think tank nGenera Insight and fellow of the World Economic Forum, and Williams, a speaker and consultant on business collaboration, stress the value of collaboration, giving credence to the idiom, "two heads are better than one." They present case studies of those already embracing the "macrowikinomics" business model, such as a micro-lending company where 570,000 individuals help fund new ventures, an online community for people with life-altering diseases that also serves as a large-scale research project, and an Iraq veteran whose startup car company is "staffed" by more than 4,500 competing designers and supplied by micro-factories around the world.

The authors also give examples of how companies are using the other four principles of macrowikinomics (openness, sharing, integrity and interdependence) throughout industries such as finance, health care, education, transportation and technology.

Though the first two chapters offer a painfully slow lead, the remainder of the 370-page book is a brilliant and unique business tome. The authors present a great case as to why the business world, and society in general, should adapt new, innovative and more efficient solutions. The only weakness is that they fail to tell the eager reader exactly how to go about accomplishing such a feat.
Emily Holbrook is the founder of Red Label Writing, LLC, a writing, editing and content strategy firm catering to insurance and risk management businesses and publications, and a former editor of Risk Management.