Recently I finished reading the book Wikinomics. I wondered whether it is just another buzzword or if it contributes to the discussion of how the Internet changes our world. In any case the authors left some answers open to be written by the readers themselves.

After reading the introduction I was fascinated to read how Dan Tapscott and Anthony Williams link different developments from the last year together and describe its implications. They argue that virtual networks, collaboration through the Internet, and the open source concept will have increasing influence on businesses, organizations and science. Those companies, which do not open up to these changes will have decisive competitive disadvantages in the future. The authors underpin their thesis with many interesting examples like Procter&Gamble’s approach to cooperate in research via innocentive.com, or a gold-mining firm, that got striking results by a innovative contest over the Internet to find new exploring methods.

“Just as collaborative tools and applications are reshaping enterprises, the new Web will forever change the way scientist publish, manage data and collaborate across institutional boundaries.”

The way the new web will change science is manifold. A key will be open access, so “the world is your research department.” An outcome will be rapid diffusion of best-practice techniques and standards, the availability of just-in-time expertise and increasingly horizontal and distributed models of research and innovation. An interesting example is how young scientists design open-source at NASA. But I wonder how developing countries have opportunities to participate in this process?

“Peer producers apply open source principles to create products made of bits - from operating systems to encyclopedias.”

Through crowd sourcing or commons based peer production new products will be developed collaboratively over the web. In my opinion this peer to peer approach is a serious alternative to traditional business models. Open source promotes this approach and is already extended to videos, music or design. The organization  for social entrepreneurs, Ashoka coined the phrase open sourcing of social change (but to have a copyright on that phrase is quite counterintuitive).

In my opinion the open source concept and the need of companies and organizations to open themselves are going hand in hand. Both are horizontal mostly bottom-up driven processes. Both indicate the need to share knowledge in an open manner. In particular the difficulty of dealing with complex problems, an overload of information and increasing competition pushes us to engage and collaborate in open networks.