This is a continuation of the books I challenged myself to read to help my career - one a month, for year. You can read my first book review here. The book I chose for November 2011 was: Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, by Don Tapscott
Why I chose this Book:
I’ve heard a lot about this book - was one of the “must read” kind of business books (many of which are very “fluffy”) and supposedly deals with collaborating using technology - so I want to see what it says about collaborative efforts and how I can leverage them.
What I learned:
I really disliked this book. I’ve never been a fan of the latest “business book”, and sadly that’s what this felt like to me. A “business book” is what I call a work that has a fairly simple concept to get across, and then proceeds to use various made-up terms, analogies and other mechanisms to fill hundreds of pages doing it.
This perception is at my own – the book is pretty old, and these things go stale quickly. The author’s general point (at least what I took away from it) was: Open Source is good, proprietary is bad. Collaboration is the hallmark of successful companies. In my mind, you can save yourself the trouble of reading this work if you get these two concepts down.
Don’t get me wrong – open source is awesome, and collaboration is a good thing, especially in places where it fits. But it’s not a panacea as the author seems to indicate. For instance, he continuously uses the example of MySpace to show a “2.0” company, which I think means that you can enter text as well as read it on a web page. All well and good. But we all know what happened to MySpace, and of course he missed the point entirely about this new web environment: low barriers to entry often mean low barriers to exit.
And the open, collaborative company being the best model – well, I think we all know a certain computer company famous for phones and music that is arguably quite successful, and is probably one of the most closed, non-collaborative (at least with its customers) on the planet. So that sort of takes away that argument.
The reality of business is far more complicated. Collaboration is an amazing tool, and should be leveraged heavily. However, at the end of the day, after you do your research you need to pick a strategy and stick with it. Asking thousands of people to assist you in building your product probably will not work well.
Open Source is great – but some proprietary products are quite functional as well, have a long track record, are well supported, and will probably be upgraded.
Everything has its place, so use what works where it is needed. There is no single answer, sadly.
So did I waste my time reading the book? Did I make a bad choice? Not at all! Reading the opinions and thoughts of others is almost always useful, and it’s important to consider opinions other than your own. If nothing else, thinking through the process either convinces you that you are wrong, or helps you understand better why you are right.