Don Tapscott has been a prophet of the digital economy since at least the early 1990s, but at the upcoming Enterprise 2.0 conference he will argue that whole industries must now transform themselves to survive shocks to the economy.
"When most people think of Enterprise 2.0, they think of the use of collaborative tools," Tapscott said. "I'm arguing that something much bigger is happening than the application collaborative tools within the enterprise--it's a profound transformation of the enterprise as we know it." Basic principles of organization that have been established over the last 100 years are being upended, leading to "huge changes in how we orchestrate capabilities to create goods and services," Tapscott said.
The state of the economy also cries out for the creation of a new kind of enterprise, Tapscott said. "This is not just a recession, it's a turning point in human history. The industrial age and many of its institutions are coming to the end of their useful reign."
Enterprise 2.0 in Santa Clara, Calif., Nov. 14 to 17. The title of his speech, "Macrowikinomics: Rethinking the Enterprise for the Age of Networked Intelligence," is a takeoff on his most recent book, "Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World," co-authored with Anthony D. Williams. Tapscott also spoke at the 2007 Enterprise 2.0 in Boston when "Wikinomics" was his current book (also co-authored with Williams).
For a quick overview of Tapscott's thinking, see the book excerpts on Bloomberg BusinessWeek's website. But Tapscott said he wants to do more than summarize the book for the Enterprise 2.0 audience. This will be the first time he will talk publicly about an idea that has been on his mind a lot lately, he said.
"It's increasingly difficult to change the enterprise unless you change your industry," Tapscott said. "There are a dozen industries where the unit of action is the industry, not the enterprise."
For example, pharmaceutical companies facing a huge dropoff in profits as their drugs go off patent will need to cooperate more on research and driving down the cost of inventing new drugs. Banks that are still struggling under the burden of toxic assets from the mortgage crisis will need to join forces to solve that problem in a way that government intervention has not achieved, he said. "Banks can't fix the problem of the banks without fixing the industry."
Collaborative technologies that can reach across corporate boundaries can be part of the solution, but it also requires these enterprises to rethink how their businesses will work.
"Some of these ideas have been around a long time, it's true," Tapscott said. "I wrote a book called 'Paradigm Shift' in 1991 that talked about the shift from the enterprise to the extended enterprise." However, the idea that the economy is in such a crisis that industry-wide collaboration is now a necessity "is a new and very disturbing idea--I haven't heard anyone say that."
Many of the ideas he has been talking about for years have been "ideas in waiting," Tapscott said. "Their time had not come--they were waiting for some big developments." The development of the Web and social media is part of it, as is the coming of age of "the first generation of digital natives for whom all this is like air," he said.
Yet the economic crisis is the "shock to the system" that will make the transformation of business much more urgent, Tapscott said. "Whole countries are bankrupt--hard to believe the United States is one of them." Enterprises, including governments, will need to act much different in the coming years to address the problems they face, he said.
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