Yesterday's Guardian has an article entitled The Wiki Way. It's about Don Tapscott and his book, Wikinomics, which I happen to be reading. The interesting thing is that it describes what we, that is the author and commenter on the VO blog, are doing.
Don and his coauthor, Anthony D. Williams, postulate that the effects of the internet have only begun to change business and society. This is due to the continued development of mass collaboration. From the article:
"Ronald Coase had noticed something odd about capitalism. The received wisdom, among western economists, was that individuals should compete in a free market: planned economies, such as Stalin's, were doomed. But in that case, why did huge companies exist, with centralised operations and planning? The Ford Motor Company was hailed as a paragon of American business, but wasn't the Soviet Union just an attempt to run a country like a big company? If capitalist theory was correct, why didn't Americans, or British people, just do business with each other as individual buyers and sellers in the open market, instead of organizing themselves into firms?
The answer - which won Coase a Nobel prize - is that making things requires collaboration, and finding and linking up all the people who need to collaborate costs money. Companies emerge when it becomes cheaper to gather people, tools and material under one roof, rather than to go out looking for the best deal every time you need a few hours' labour, or a part for a car. But the internet, Tapscott argues, is radically lowering the cost of collaborating. Companies - certainly big companies - are losing their raison d'etre. Individuals, and tiny companies, can collaborate without corporate behemoths to organise them."
Tapscott goes on to explain that while it is not unusual for companies to have input from customers "Collaboration can occur on an astronomical scale, so if you can create an encyclopedia with a bunch of people, could you create a mutual fund? A motorcycle?" Or a bicycle perhaps?
He uses the Chinese motorcycle industry as an example. This is an industry that produces 15 million motorcycles yet is not dominated by large companies such as Honda or Yamaha, but rather it is made up of hundreds of small companies: "Their representatives meet in tea-houses, or collaborate online, each sharing knowledge, and contributing the parts or services they do best. The companies that assemble the finished products don't hire the other companies; assembling the finished product is just another service. A "self-organised system of design and production" has emerged..."
There are some elements of this in the Taiwanese bicycle industry, and here at Velo Orange. Of course our example is not quite as developed, but by cooperating with Johnny Coast, Ahren Rogers, Mr. Yoshikawa (of Nitto) and many of our customers who post here or send me lengthy e-mails describing products they would like to see, we are creating a sort of Wiki. The new porteur rack, for example, is based on plans sent by a customer. I wonder how we can further develop this concept?
The photos are of the Ostrich panniers; a few folks wanted to see more detail.