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A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

Oct 26, 2009

We Think

Whatever attracted me to want to read this book wasn't the cover.

I believe in the adage: "Never judge a book by its covers". Looks can be deceiving. The covers are but only two sides; the front and the back. What holds the complete story are the pages between them. So the story had to be read from the beginning to the fully comprehend. Else we could easily jump into the wrong conclusions.

How about the catchy, two-worded book title: "We-Think"?

I think....You think...."We Think"

So is this another "creative thinking book" to "brainwash" and change people's mind, to help readers to develop a mind as great as the writer?

Dr Edward de Bono has been decribed as "one of the very few people in history who can be said to have had a major impact on the way we think. In many ways he could be said to be the best known thinker internationally" (excerpt from the Edward De Bono Web).

He has written numerous books with translations into 34 languages (all the major languages plus Hebrew, Arabic, Bahasa, Urdu, Slovene, Turkish etc).

There are many other great thinkers in the world who have generously shared their secret formulae and concepts through books, training courses and other multi-media channels.

Charles Leadbeater, the author of "We-Think", is one of the world's leading authorities on innovation and creativity in organisations.

Matthew D' Ancona of Spectator described "We-Think" as "a riveting guide to a new world in which a whole series of core assumptions are being overturned by innovations on the web. Leadbeater draws a series of remarkable conclusions".

The marketing strategy adopted by Charles Leadbeater (and 257 other people) in publishing "We-Think" is unorthodox and revolutionary; and which I think is news-worthy to blog about here.

How is it "unorthodox and revolutionary"?

An excerpt from the Preface of the book here will give readers an idea how Charles Leadbeater is moving away from the traditional ways of marketing books:


I have tried, imperfectly, to write We-Think in the spirit of the argument, openly and collaboratively. The book draws on the ideas of many other people, who are noted in the acknowledgements. But about half-way through the writing it dawned on me that it would be odd to write about the growth of collaborative creativity in the traditional way: the writer at his desk, isolated from the world, alone with his thoughts. With the support of my publisher, Profile, I posted an early draft on my website so people could download it, print it, read it and comment on it. They could also go to a wiki version to change the text and distribute it to their friends and colleagues. And so I just let it go, bouncing along the links that make up the web like a skimming stone.

At first sight this is a very odd thing for a writer to do, on at least two counts. First, as several people pointed out, if I gave away the draft for free, would people want to buy the finished book? My hunch, confirmed by other experiments of this kind, is that sales will not suffer. The more the draft is downloaded, the more talked-about it will be and the more likely people are to buy the final work - all the more so as it includes Debbie Powell's great illustrations. The finished book version differs markedly from the first draft put on the web. Secondly, why wash my dirty linen in public? Showing a draft to anyone induces in me a deep insecurity and anxiety. There are bound to be errors, omissions, mistakes. That is why normally I show a draft only to my wife. Why on earth make it available to lots of people I do not know?

Since I put that early draft online in October 2006, the material has been downloaded 35 times a day: about 150 comments have been posted on the site about the text; it has been mentioned on more than 250 blogs; I have received about 200 emails from people wanting to point me in the direction of useful information; and by late 2007 a Google search for the book title and my name came back with 65,600 hits.

Did this little experiment in collaborative creativity work? Well, no one was horrible. There was neither vandalism nor abuse. Some of my early callers were pretty sceptical. The first post on the site, from an ardent Irish blogger, basically said, "Who the hell do you think you are? I've been blogging for years - what do you know about it?" One respondent said the idea was 'codswallop' and another that it was 'stale'. Some people wondered whether it was just a clever wheeze to get other people to write a book for me and so to make money out of their voluntary contributions. Later, another respondent suggested I put a 'Donate here' button on the text to make sure I got paid: he warned me that lots of fake books were circulating on the Internet and suggested that if I were not careful someone would run away with my ideas.


It is an experiment in collaborative creativity work: like Creative Commons in helping to increase the amount of creativity with cultural, educational and scientific content to reach out to the masses. It is also similar to the "shareware" or "freeware" concept, which allow users to try them free of charge for a limited period before they buy or obtain a registration code for a fee. The early adopters of the shareware programs were volunteer "guinea pigs" or "beta testers" (a more humanistic term). They submit bug reports, constructive feedbacks to the shareware developers to fix coding errors or Operating System incompatibility problems. Discussion boards were set up for users on multiple platforms to exchange and share their experience through these forum channels. It became a mutual help community which eventually resulted in the enhancement and refinement of the original shareware. It is a win-win situation for the shareware developers and the users. Else the bug-ridden shareware would become "junkware" or "abandonware" which nobody wants, even for free.

Daily Telegraph described the book as "A love letter to the web's emergent culture of sharing".

From the book blurb:

"You are what you share.

That is the ethic of the world being created by YouTube and MySpace, Wikipedia and Facebook. We-Think is a rallying call for the shared power of the web to make society more open and egalitarian.

We-Think reports on an unparalleled wave of collaborative creativity as people from California to China devise ways to work together that are more democratic, productive and creative. This guide to the new culture of mass participation and innovation is a book like no other: it started first online through a unique experiment in collaborative creativity involving hundreds of people across the globe.

Today's generation are not content to remain spectators, they are tomorrow's players. Their slogan: we think therefore we are".

The draft is available here

Order the book online at Amazon

The book is also available for loan from the National Library. Call No: 306 LEA

The following is another excerpt from the book (Page 23):


We-Think emerges when diverse groups of independent individuals collaborate effectively. It is not group-think: submersion in a homogeneous, unthinking mass. Crowds and mobs are stupid as often as they are wise. It all depends on how the individual members combine participation and collaboration, diversity and shared values, independence of thought and community. When the mix is right - as it seems to be in Wikipedia - the outcome is a powerful shared intelligence. When the mix is wrong it leads to cacophony or conformity.

How to get that mix right is a puzzle more organisations will have to address as the web's influence spreads. How do all these contributions, often made by strangers, fit together to create a single working computer program, a game or an encyclopaedia? Why do masses of people work for free, first to create these things and then to give away the fruits of their work? In We-Think innovators share their ideas quite freely and welcome others' borrowing of their work and improving on it. They put a lot of unpaid effort into their innovations and then do not seek to profit from them. This is behaviour we have learned to regard as bizarre and yet on the web it seems to be part of the new normal. Can We-Think sustain itself, it its collectives do not earn money to reinvest in their activities, let alone to pay the mortgages of their workers? And can traditional, top-down organisations find a way - given these contraints - to mobilise the power of We-Think?


The concept of sharing discussed here is somewhat similar to the objective of Creative Commons. You can find out more about Creative Commons here.   This is another "open resource" for knowledge and information mining.



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