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The challenges of Wikinomics August 11, 2007

Posted by Steve Field in Wikinomics.
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The idea of the “prosumer” — the actively involved consumer — that Don Tapscott presents in Wikinomics is clever and insightful. However, the trend of the democratization of media that he outlines in chapter five is a bumpy road for business, government and associations. The part toward mass collaboration is difficult one for institutions entrenched in traditional business models.

Tapscott outlines five imperatives of harnessing the prosumer for corporate benefit. They are:

  1. Employ more than just customization
  2. Cede control
  3. Make products modular and reconfigurable
  4. Become a peer
  5. Share the fruits

While essential to leveraging the power of the crowd, taking these steps marks a big leap of faith for institutions that are used to control — i.e. most institutions. Historically businesses have believed that they controlled their brand. They were able to shape it through advertising and one-way communication from company to consumer. Today, that is not the case.

This isn’t just the reality that business is facing. Government also faces the challenge. Consider my former place of work — the Pentagon. The U.S. military is one of the most hierarchical organizations in the world. They are also facing the realities of communicating with prosumers. The attitude of the prosumer flies in the face of traditional military organization.

Figuring out how to convince organizational leaders to embrace the principles of Wikinomics will not be easy, but it should be done.

In the mean time, enjoy a video about the world of prosumers:

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