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    A World Of Wikipedia And Bitcoin: Is That The Promise Of Open Collaboration?
    By News Staff | January 2nd 2014 10:46 AM | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    Open Collaboration, defined in a new paper as "any system of innovation or production that relies on goal-oriented yet loosely coordinated participants who interact to create a product (or service) of economic value, which they make available to contributors and non-contributors alike" brought the world Wikipedia, Bitcoin and, yes, even Science 2.0.

    But what does that mean, really? That's the first problem with vague terms in an open environment. It is anything people want it to be and sometimes what people want it to be is money, but hidden behind a guise of public weal.

    TED's lesser cousin TEDx is a result of open collaboration but there is no doubt it has successfully leveraged the marketing of TED to sell seats in auditoriums, just as it was designed to do. Generally, Open Collaboration now is less like its early days, where a group of like-minded people got together to create an Open Source tool, and more like corporations. Only they avoid the label, they are not quite non-profits and not quite corporations. 

    And because they are neither they can operate free of the cultural stigma. Despite efforts to claim that Wikipedia is a hotbed of misogyny and blocks out minorities, the online encyclopedia has endured just fine. Their defense is a simple one; they have no idea what gender or race or religion anyone is and anyone can contribute - it is a true open collaboration. Open Collaboration is goal-oriented, they lack the infrastructure to obey demands that they become about social justice, so the environments can be less touchy-feely than corporations and avoid the social authoritarianism of academia. 

    Many open collaborations perform well even in 'harsh' environments, where some minorities are underrepresented and diversity is lacking or when products by different groups rival one another. It's a real puzzle for sociologists. The authors conclude that open collaboration is likely to expand into new domains, displacing traditional organizations, because it is so mission-oriented. Business executives and civic leaders should take heed - the future could look a lot more like the 1940s. 

    Citation: Sheen S. Levine, Michael J. Prietula, 'Open Collaboration for Innovation: Principles and Performance', Organization Science December 30, 2014 DOI:10.1287/orsc.2013.0872