We Are Smarter Than Me, We Think

There was an interesting story in the Wall St.Journal last week with the headline, ‘U.K’s Pearson Tests The Group Dynamic For a ‘Wiki’ Book’. I don’t know if they are given to hyperbole, but William M.Bulkeley, filing the report, thinks that this ‘could shake up the book industry’:

Publishing giant Pearson PLC is joining with two top business schools to create a business book authored and edited by a “wiki” — an online community dedicated to writing.
The effort is inspired, in part, by the best-known wiki-produced work — Wikipedia, a not-for-profit online encyclopedia. Despite occasional hiccups, Wikipedia is increasingly regarded as a reliable source for information, aided by community-enforced rules that it can’t contain either personal points of view or original research….
The wiki book, produced by a community of business experts and managers, will be called “We Are Smarter Than Me.” It will explore how businesses can use online communities, consumer-generated media such as blogs, and other Web content to help in their marketing, pricing, research and service
.’

We Are Smarter Than Me won’t pay businessmen and consultants for their response to not much more than a series of chapter headings – but will reimburse a team of ghostwriters to turn their thoughts into a 120-page business book aimed at the fast-growing airport bookstore market for sale next autumn at $25.99. An Authors Guild spokesman was predictably scathing about this ‘wiki…about wikis’, arguing that, ‘Readers generally look for a strong, consistent author’s voice, which isn’t something a wiki can really provide.’

But the man who thought the idea up – Barry Libert, a former McKinsey & Co. consultant who is CEO of Shared Insights Inc., a Woburn, Mass., company – is convinced that the big community collectively will select solutions that are better than the answers provided by individual professors or consultants. Many companies have started using wikis internally and with partners for product development. How will they motivate their major contributors? Authors’ names will be printed on the book cover and on the web site, and as the MIT partner commented, “If you really are an expert in this area, you wouldn’t want to be left out.”

We Are Smarter Than Me is not however to be confused with another initiative which was bruited abroad on Start the Week last week – We-Think, described thus:

‘ a new form of creativity is being born, one based on participation… People can combine their ideas and skills without a hierarchy to co-ordinate their activities. Charles Leadbeater’s new book is called We-Think: The Power of Mass Creativity, but it is not published until June 2007. However, the author is attempting to put his ideas into practice: a draft of the book is available on the web and readers’ comments will be incorporated into the final version.’

It’s a fascinating read.

Meanwhile Charles Leadbeater last week also made an effort to sort out some of the ideas of Mick Hucknall from Simply Red. Mick went on record to say that yet another extension of the copyright term for bands like Simply Red was true socialism. This was a novel approach, to say the least. The ensuing debate was lively. See Peter Bradwell’s Friday Rant for some of the goss…  It is very early days for the reversal of the trend of lengthening terms, and hopefully the debate will now gather pace, and be taken seriously.

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