We-Think - Charles Leadbeater book review on Mass innovation not mass production

From the inside of the cover ….

“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 ware 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 creatitiy involving hundreds of people across the globe.

The generation growing up with the web will not be content to remain spectators. They want to be players and this is their slogan “We-Think therefore we are”


A very good book for those who are thinking outside of the Box.  I like the approach and the story.  Leadbeater develops the idea that diverse groups are better than smart, narrow or opinionated groups. Diverse group lead to innovation and the reason for corporate failure is that they like everyone to be the same.  Hence corporate life is about dull problems and not very exciting solutions.  Collaboration is the opposite.  However we should not get to excited as our new collaborative world has as many dangers for us as the one we currently have.


Leadbeater develops the idea (as I did in mobile web 2.0 www.futuretext.com ) that Maslow pyramid is about how we gain identity and what value there is in this.  I liked his ideas about current obsession with occupation and job titles are not good for us.  Relationships and share interests will drive us over the next hill.


There is not a massive take away from the book, but it did provide some good reference as to why I am reading and thinking like I do currently.  This has helped me to structure some very clear views on thouhgs on some projects that I was struggling with so – many thanks.   My slogan “I create, I share therefore I am someone”

Here are my best bits




Scott Page, a professor of complex systems at the university of Michigan, used sophisticated computer models to find that groups with diverse skills and outlooks came up with smart solutions more often that groups of very clear people who shred the same outlook and skills.


The kind of problem-solving that comes only from intense collaboration.  In the worm project, the researches started by meeting in the coffee room at Brenner’s laboratory.  In We-Think, crowds need meeting places, neutral spaces for creative conversation, moderated to allow the free flow of ideas. This is why, at their heart, these projects have open discussion forums and wikis, bulletin boards and community councils, or simple journals lie Lean’s Engine Reporter and the Worm Breeder’s Gazette, so that people can come together in a way that allows one plus one to equal twelve many times over


Henry Ford created a model of mass production; Linus Torvalds and his ilk are creating a way to organise mass innovation.

All of this is encouraging large companies to shift towards more collaborative , networked approaches to innovation to share costs and multiply their source of ideas.


We-Think really will pave the way for more We Make.


You cannot feed a hungry child with MP3 files.

Those with strong social networks use the web to strengthen them further.


As societies get riches and more of the basic needs for food, clothing, housing, warmth and security are met, people will become increasingly interested in the psychological dimensions of well-being. It is vital to our psychological well-being that we are held in high esteem, valued and recognised for what we do.  Our identities – what we are good at and what matters to us – depend on the recognition of other people.  In the past, certainly in the rich work, many people acquired a sense of identity from their position in a bounded local community.  In the 20th century, occupation and position in an organisational hierarchy often provided the key. Now, people increasingly get a sense of identity from the relationships they form and the interests they share with others. The web matters not least because by allowing people to participate and share, it also give them a route to recognition, if only through the comments posted in response to a blog, a rating as a trader on eBay, the point acquired as a game player, or the incorporations of software they have written into the source code. People are drawn to share, not only to air their ideas, but in the hope their contributions will eb recognised by a community of their peers.


Recognition cannot bought and sold on the market - at least not the kind of recognition that counts.

We win the recognition that counts from impartial, external sources, usually communities of our peers.

These communities meet a basic human need that will get stronger as we become materially richer.' Ideas are animated when they are shared, and people are driven to share because recognition and regard can be reliably earned only from communities, networks, clans, families, religious groups, movements that are not animated by money.


Groups are wise, clever and smart only when they are made up of independent people who are capable of thinking for-themselves-and armed with diverse skills and points of view.

Feeding this development will be a fundamental change in our economic culture: over the next two or three decades, people will start to play quite different roles, seeing themselves increasingly as participants and contributors, as well as workers and consumers


Participation will, however, mean quite different things in different settings. More companies and brands, politicians and celebrities will try to incorporate their consumers as fans and followers, recruiting celebrants. They will participate, but more in the way a congregation does in a church service.

It would be naive to imagine that a new way of organising
ourselves will necessarily be exclusively positive. There will be downsides, possibly very significant ones - while industrial mass production massively increased productivity and  brought cheaper goods within the reach of most people, it had also been accompanied by alienation and strife at work,  industrial accidents, ravaged landscapes and environmental  despoliation on a vast scale


As we have seen, critics are already warning us to worry about a whole slew of possible disadvantages: the erosion of professional authority and knowledge; the loss of individuality in a morass of social networking; the eradication of spaces for reflection as a result of our being constantly connected; and the degradation of friendship when relationships are  mediated by technology.

There are no central gatekeepers to control access to the Internet


In their different ways, all the web's critics converge on a single worry it makes the world more unreliable, threatening and out of control. Whatever the limitations of top-down,  industrial-era institutions, at least the world they created  was relatively orderly and people knew where they stood


First, those who have top-down control will fight to retain it, even as power threatens to, seep away from them.


Mass production came  of age during the fight against Fascism in the Second World  War.-We-Think might come of age in the fight against global  warming, because finding alternative ways to generate energy, use resources and cope with rising sea-levels will require  collective innovation on an immense scale


We-Think offers a different  possible story, one of trust and collaboration built on liberal and enlightenment traditions of peer collaboration in pursuit
of better ideas, arbitrated on the basis of evidence rather than

migrating some original work to here - post from Aug 2008