Open Sesame

WIKINOMICS

How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything

By Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams

Portfolio Hardcover -- $25.95

IT'S OKAY TO BE THE BOSS

The Step-By-Step Guide

to Becoming the Manager

Your Employees Need

By Bruce Tulgan

Collins -- $23.95

Amazon.com is often decried for putting scores of small booksellers out of business. Less often heard is that its open platform supports many entrepreneurs: The behemoth maintains about 975,000 third-party seller accounts, many of which are small businesses. That's in addition to the more than 140,000 developers who create, among other things, a Web site that organizes Amazon's CD catalog according to how often songs are being played by big radio stations. Granted, Amazon makes money from such piggybacking, but commissions on even a fraction of its $9 billion in sales still yield healthy revenues for small companies.

That such new models of value creation are rapidly supplanting old ones is the key note sounded in Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, co-authored by Don Tapscott, a business professor at the University of Toronto and CEO of think tank New Paradigm, and Anthony Williams, New Paradigm's research director. Wikinomics is a solidly researched, provocative examination of the changing nature of business. Although it can be a difficult read, it is a worthwhile one for anyone launching or expanding a business of any size.

Wiki refers to software that enables anyone to edit Web pages and, by extension, collaborate in activities that were once exclusive and hierarchical. That's good news for entrepreneurs, as it opens "the floodgates to a worldwide explosion of participation."

The authors cite myriad new ways of doing business, from companies that invite strangers to collaborate to entrepreneurs who hawk their intellectual wares in a virtual marketplace. In 2000, Toronto's Goldcorp, a mining company, published online proprietary data about its Red Lake property, promising to reward those who helped find gold deposits. Independent wannabe prospectors identified more than 50 targets, and 80% yielded substantial quantities of gold. Companies are also taking advantage of "ideagoras," online marketplaces that connect buyers and sellers of ideas and technologies. Three years ago, Procter & Gamble made its patents available for license, and, conversely, sought existing products and technologies from individuals and small companies that it could improve. One result: Swiffer Dusters.

Tapscott and Williams are prone to grandiose pronouncements and jargon-laden dialectics. Still, their vision of the future is one entrepreneurs should celebrate.

PEOPLE PROBLEMS

Nat, a manager for a large intelligence agency, hired a brilliant analyst. Problem was, the fellow wasn't producing. Nat sat him down for a one-on-one. The guy said, "I can't work here in this cubicle at this desk.... I need my thinking couch." Nat finally agreed. "We let him set up his office just the way he wanted it," Nat said. "And from that moment on, he was the happiest employee here"—and presumably a more productive one.

The lesson learned? According to Bruce Tulgan's It's Okay to Be the Boss: "Make a point of talking with your high performers to find out what they really want or need, whether it's a special deal or a small accommodation." Just don't forget to tell the employee what you need in return.

Tulgan, founder of Rainmaker-Thinking, a management training company, includes many such real-life anecdotes in his primer. His theme is that undermanagement—"a shocking and profound lack of daily guidance, direction, feedback, and support for employees"—is epidemic. The book, which often reads as a loosely edited compendium of speeches, spells out how to actively manage employees at all levels. His tough-love dicta include setting aside an hour a day exclusively for managing. That's when you should make your game plan and assert your leadership in various ways, such as establishing specific expectations and communicating them clearly, monitoring performance, and rewarding or disciplining employees accordingly. Tulgan may be overly chatty, but small business owners who don't have management training or human resource departments to back them up will find his advice valuable.

By Marilyn Harris

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