We need a new model of innovation for the 21st century
By Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams
When the economy crashed in 2008, it cost American taxpayers trillions of dollars. Faced with a historic market meltdown, the worst recession in three generations, plus government guarantees that exceed the cost of every war the U.S. has ever fought, American taxpayers are understandably furious. It is pretty much the same story around the world. Many people are reviving calls for updated regulations, more government intervention and even the breakup or nationalization of the big banks.
Today, fifteen million people between ages 15-24 are out of work in North America and Europe. More than 81 million are unemployed worldwide. There is 25% youth unemployment in France and Italy. In Spain, more than 40% of young people are jobless. At these levels, we are talking about structural unemployment for the whole generation. Youth jobs are likely to be the last to come back after the recession and research shows that prolonged periods of unemployment can have lasting effects on one's career prospects as skills and education quickly get dated. The risk that a large cohort could fall behind has policy makers questioning how they’re going to prevent a “lost youth generation” from becoming one of the ailing economy’s long-term casualties.
We are mired in more than just a recession. We’re seeing the precipitous decline of the industrial economy as a whole. Many of the institutions that have served us well for decades—even centuries—seem frozen and unable to move forward. Sure, the industrial economy brought us unprecedented productivity, knowledge accumulation and innovation that resulted in undreamt-of-wealth and prosperity. But that prosperity has come at a cost to society and the planet.
It is clear that the wealth and security enjoyed in advanced economies may not be sustainable as billions of citizens in emerging markets aspire to join the global middle class. If we continue on a business-as-usual path, today’s global instability will surely increase. Indeed, we believe the world has reached a critical turning point: reboot all the old models, approaches and structures or risk institutional paralysis or even collapse.
This is the theme of a new book Anthony D. Williams and I co-authored, called Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World. It is the follow-up to our 2007 best-seller, Wikinomics. The focus of Wikinomics was the corporation, and the new book has a much wider scope. We believe many of today’s institutions are not functioning properly and have reached the end of their lifecycle. So we look at the need for the tonic of mass collaboration in areas such as transportation, finance, education, health care, journalism and government. We need to reinvent them around a new open network model.
Changes of this magnitude have occurred before. In fact, human societies have always been punctuated by periods of great change that not only cause people to think and behave differently, but also give rise to new social orders and institutions. In many instances these changes are driven by disruptive technologies that penetrate societies to fundamentally change their culture and economy. When the spread of the printing press popularized the reading and writing of books, for example, it spread panic throughout Europe’s ruling classes. For the first time the clergy could no longer control religion, science or medicine. Nor could the monarchs dominate every aspect of political life or grip the reins of a burgeoning capitalistic economy.
To be sure, in each sector the book examines there is a mixture of promise and peril ahead. On balance, however, Wikinomics offers profound social benefits, including the opportunity to broaden access to science and knowledge, impose greater transparency on financial markets, accelerate the invention and adoption of green technologies, and help make today’s leaders in business and government accountable for delivering outcomes that enhance well-being around the world.
Collaborative communities not only transcend the boundaries of time and space, they can reach across the usual disciplinary and organizational silos that inhibit cooperation, learning and progress. In doing all these things, mass collaboration provides an attractive alternative to hierarchical, command and control management systems that are failing many of our key institutions.
Indeed if we are serious about rebooting business and the world, then we must not only be able to talk innovation, but do innovation and do it fast. Every stakeholder involved—not only companies operating in diverse sectors such as transportation, media, health care and energy, but also universities, scientific institutions, and governments—must summon the courage and creativity to reinvent themselves, using technology and collaboration as an enabler, a catalyst and a driver of change with the ultimate goal to provide better outcomes for citizens and users. This is not about tinkering at the edges; this is about devising, living and experiencing a new model of innovation that is fit for the 21st century.
Read the article on Verizon Central Newroom: http://www.verizon.net/newsroom/portals/newsroom.portal?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=newsroom_portal_page_f...
MacroWikinomics on the Web: http://www.macrowikinomics.com
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Don Tapscott is the author of 14 books, including (with Anthony D. Williams) MacroWikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World (Sept 28, 2010) He is an Adjunct Professor at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. Twitter @dtapscott