Punting in Oxford
Week's end

Wikinomics and Mission

I said a few words at church yesterday about transparency and generosity and made a reference to a book called Wikinomics as well as the Bible.

Images-1-5It was an open mike session rather than a single preacher and I followed James Stockan, Councillor and Vice Convenor of Orkney. Which was a tough act to follow because James was recently invited by Lord Chamberlain to an afternoon event in Edinburgh with the Queen, which all happened a few days ago. James was informed on how to dress (what the heck is a morning suit?) and his wife was required to wear a hat. All very interesting and intimidating. Glad the open mike wasn't a competition.

As for me, I didn't meet any royalty, and I can hardly tell a morning suit from a wet suit, but in my travels over the past 2 weeks I have talked to mission leaders in Norway, Netherlands, England and Scotland about the relentless change going on in their worlds. I have been in missions and social enterprise for more than two decades and I really cant remember a time when things were changing so quickly and so radically. There is a dramatic reshuffling of priorities, a flattening of hierarchies, a giving away of the farm, and a greater openness to collaboration with each other.

A lot of this change in priorities and thinking is reflected in and/or stimulated by the change of media from print-based to web-based aggregation, retrieval and distribution of new media . Best book on this, I think, is Lev Manovich's The Language of New Media, and also Barabasi's Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else, but some newer books offer a better analysis and fresher examples of the thinking behind blogging, Wikis and how that thinking is changing business and organisations . . . including missions and social enterprises.

Images-8I am currently recommending Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams. The book shows how some of the world's leading companies like Google and websites like Wikipedia are employing a new kind of strategy that involves generosity, transparency, online collectivism, sharing of resources through trust-based collaboration, co-creation and peering that leverages self-organization, emergent behavior, crowd-wisdom and results in organizations with "porous boundaries" and functional modularity. Thats a lot of tags and buzzwords, I know, and a lot of this is not new. I was talking about modularity in church back in 2004 and have been using similar terms (and descriptions like "lego") even longer. But they all come together quite nicely in this book.

A great example of transparency from Wikinomics is Rob McEwan, CEO of the gold mining firm GoldCorp Inc., who said he was going to "take all our data, put it in a file and share it with the world" and "then ask the world where to find the next six million ounces of gold". The experiment was risky but paid off by shaving 3 years of exploration time and the discovery of new gold that moved them from being a $100 million company into a $9 billion dollar company.

Anyway, James was talking before me (at the church) about losing your life in order to gain it, and I was reminded of other passages in the Scriptures that call for transparency, generosity and trust rather than secrecy, hoarding and self-interest.

a 70k animated gif on proverbs 11:24 . . . . . . wait for it

The community that Jesus raised was one of outrageous generosity and, unlike the gnostic teachers of the time, did not make money from revealing mystical secrets. The secret of the Kingdom had been revealed in Christ and the messengers of the gospel were to publish this good news to the world without holding back.


For me, blogging is a way of sharing my thoughts freely, without finding an immediate connection with how I might be paid or get better off. If a good name is better than riches, then reputation trumps renumeration. I have always been inspired by musician Keith Green who gave away his records to me and thousands of others without knowing how it would come back to him, or if what he cast on the waters would ever come back. But it always does.


I finished off my little talk with the farewell speech of Paul to the Ephesians in which he "did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable" (Acts 20) but I think everyone was too overwhelmed with the story of James and the Queen to listen very intently.
Fair enough.

Did anyone else read Wikinomics?

Related: A New Kind of Hierarchy, Reclusing Ourselves to Death, Emergant: New Media Fluency, The Spirituality of Torrent

Also, this blog post was featured on the Wikinomics blog

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