By Dean Whittaker

What is a Wiki and why should you care? Wiki (Hawaiian for quick), as explained in Wikinomics by DonTapscott and Anothony D. Miller, is more than software that enables multiple people to edit a website. It is metaphor for a new era of collaboration. By more effectively and efficiently harnessing talent of dispersed individuals and organizations, wiki will dramatically change how some work is performed. The rapidly evolving encyclopedia is only one example of how this “mass” collaboration process is impacting all of us. Another interesting example is, a tool to match unused intellectual property with companies seeking innovative solutions.

Competing through innovation, along with the convergence of four major trends, is creating an enormous shift towards a more collaborative approach to business. The four trends are openness, peering, sharing, and globalization. By being open to external thoughts and ideas, firms are availing themselves of a more diverse talent pool. Peering brings a self-organizing principle into play. While sharing provides others with access to internal intellectual assets to enhance the collective effort, globalization provides both markets and resources beyond any one firm’s capabilities.

From an economic development perspective, this shift in how work gets done will bring profound changes. As many organizations and practitioners are evaluated based upon their contribution towards the creation of jobs and tax base, it will become increasingly difficult to measure success. What metrics will be used to measure the wealth creation process by this diverse and widely distributed workforce? Political boundaries and geographic regions will become less relevant, if not irrelevant, from a production point of view. What effect will this have on public funding of economic development programs?

On the upside, those areas that are able to retain and attract talent will prosper as their workforce engages with this new media for collaboration. Wealth will flow to those areas that offer the environment and infrastructure to engage in the new art of “mass” collaboration in the creation of new products and services. If you want to learn more, I would highly recommend that you put Wikinomics on your summer reading list.