13 October 2006

Book: ‘We-Think’ on collective creativity

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From YouTube to Wikipedia, collective creativity and collaboration are replacing top-down management as a business model. In a Times2 article today, Charles Leadbeater writes how he believes the We-Think phenomenon will affect every area of our lives.

Leadbeater, who is also a Demos associate, wrote the book We-Think which is about “developing new ways to innovate and be creative en masse”, being “organised without an organisation” and “combining ideas and skills without a hierarchy”. Leadbeater thinks this could “change not just the ways in which the media, software and entertainment work but how we organise education, healthcare, cities and, indeed, the political system.”

Here some quotes from the long and thoughtful Times2 article:

“The guiding ethos of this new culture is participation. The point of the industrial-era economy was mass production for mass consumption — the formula created by Henry Ford. We were workers by day and consumers in the evenings or at weekends. In the world of We-Think the point is to be a player in the action, a voice in the conversation — not to consume but to participate.”

“In the We-Think economy people don’t just want services and goods delivered to them. They also want tools so that they can take part and places in which to play, share, debate with others.”

“Participants will not be led and organised in this way: the dominant ethos of the We-Think economy is democratic and egalitarian. These vast communities of participation are led by antiheroic, slight leaders — the likes of Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google, Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia and Linus Torvalds of Linux. Such people are the antithesis of the charismatic, harddriving chief executive in the Jack Welch mould.”

“These collaboratives change the way in which people come up with new ideas. Innovation and creativity were once elite activities undertaken by special people — writers, designers, architects, inventors — in special places — garrets, studies, laboratories. The ideas they dreamt up would flow down pipelines to passive consumers. Now innovation and creativity are becoming mass activities, dispersed across society. Largely self-organising collaborations can unravel the human genome, create a vast encyclopaedia and a complex computer operating system. This is innovation by the masses, not just for the masses.”

“My book We-Think is an effort to understand this new culture; where these new ways of organising ourselves have come from and where they might lead. They started in the geeky swampland — in open-source software, blogging and computer gaming. But they are so powerful that increasingly they will become the mainstream by challenging traditional organisations to open up. They could change not just the ways in which the media, software and entertainment work but how we organise education, healthcare, cities and, indeed, the political system.”

Leadbeater is releasing the book in draft form before its physical publication, which is planned for summer 2007. Most of the first draft was made available online this week, with the final three or four chapters following over the next few weeks.

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(via Demos)

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