20 big ideas for 2012Don TapscottDEC 16, 2011 12:57 ESTARAB SPRING | DIGITAL REVOLUTION | TRANSPARENCY | WIKILEAKSThe views expressed are his own.What will happen in 2012? In the spirit of the aphorism “The future is not something to be predicted, it’ssomething to be achieved,” let me suggest 20 transformations (which Reuters will publish in four groups offive). We need to make progress on these issues now to prevent next year from being a complete disaster.These ideas are based on the research I did with Anthony D. Williams to write our recent book which comesout in January 2012 as a new edition entitled Macrowikinomics: New Solutions for a Connected Planet.All 20 are based on the idea that the industrial age has finally run out of gas and we need to rebuild most ofour institutions for a new age of networked intelligence and a new set of principles – collaboration,openness, sharing, interdependence and integrity. These big ideas will be the focus of much of my writingnext year.1. Make the transformations required to avoid the 20-year slumpThere is growing concern that the global economic crisis is not over, but may be just beginning. How do weavoid a prolonged period of slump and its effects – stagnation, unrest and even calamity? Evidencesuggests that this is not a normal business cycle but rather a secular change — that the industrial economyand many of its institutions have finally run out of gas. A fundamental transformation is required — from oldmodels of financial services to media, our energy grid, transportation systems and institutions for globalcooperation and problem solving.At the same time the contours of a new kind of civilization are becoming clear. Society has at its disposal themost powerful platform ever for bringing together the people, skills and knowledge we need to ensuregrowth, social development and a just and sustainable world. Because of the digital revolution, the oldindustrial models are being turned on their head and new possibilities abound. From education and scienceand to new approaches to citizen engagement and democracy, sparkling new initiatives are underway torebuild the world anew.We need new models that leaders of business, government and civil society can embrace. Rather thantinkering we need to transform our economy and society.2. Radical opennessWikiLeaks continues to release classified government, and soon corporate information. Clearly not allgovernment information should be public. And government employees as a rule should not violate theirconfidentiality agreements. But this forced transparency is just the tip of the iceberg. Increasingly allorganizations operate in a hyper-transparent world. Today customers can use the Internet to help evaluatethe true worth of products and services. Employees share formerly secret information about corporatestrategy, management and challenges. To collaborate effectively, companies share intimate knowledge withone another. And in a world of instant communications, whistleblowers, inquisitive media, and Google,citizens and communities routinely put firms under the microscope.So if a corporation is going to be naked – and it really has no choice in the matter – it had better be buff. Andwhen it comes to corrupt governments, sunlight is the best disinfectant. Organizations need to embracetransparency for trust, innovation, better performance and success.3. Pulling the plug: making communication a right in the Digital AgeThroughout the Arab Spring, rulers attempted to shut off access to the web and digital tools. During theLondon riots of 2011 government leaders discussed the wisdom of pulling the plug on communications toolsand leaders elsewhere including in the United States have openly discussed the Idea of an Internet “Off
Switch.” The experience suggests these to be counterproductive: When governments shut down the Net,uninvolved people are affected, angered and become involved. Moreover, when people have their tools ofcommunication taken away, such as Twitter and Facebook, they have no choice but to come into the streetand communicate. So this has had the effect of stimulating the mass action in the street. And as the Internetbecomes the foundation for wealth creation, education, health care, supply chains, commerce and all otherfacets of society, shutting it down has the effect of creating a digital general strike and economic paralysis.Are there cases where it is legitimate and effective to pull the plug? Is communication a right in the digitalage? What new models of free speech are required for the digital age?4. Take action to prevent a worldwide youth explosionToday’s youth were told that if they graduated, worked hard, and stayed out of trouble, they would have aprosperous and fulfilling life. But that’s not happening. Around the world, youth unemployment is far higherthan the national average. Young people are disillusioned, and their high unemployment raises the specterof a new youth radicalization. In the ‘60s, youth radicalization was based on causes such as opposing theVietnam war. Today’s radicalization is deeply rooted in personal broken hopes, mistreatment, and injustice.Moreover, today’s frustrated youth have at their fingertips the most powerful tool ever for finding out what’sgoing on, informing others and organizing collective responses. How can we engage youth in finding newsolutions and in doing so avoid a generational conflict that could make the 1960s look tame?5. Shift to new models of global problem-solvingThe inability of the G8 and G20 to address the global economic crisis; the Doha Development Round of theWorld Trade Organization; and the Copenhagen and Cancun conferences on climate change show thatformal international systems for cooperation are failing in achieving world goals of economic growth, climateprotection, poverty eradication, conflict avoidance, human security and behavior based on shared values.Conversely many of the positive developments happening around the world, such as the struggles fordemocracy in the Middle East and North Africa, are not being made because of our global systems forcooperation but rather through new networks of citizens, civil society organizations and other stakeholdersuniting around a common cause.It was a network of governments, private companies, civil society organizations, and individual citizens – thenew four pillars of society – that organized to solve the crisis in Haiti. Rather than building more massiveglobal bureaucracies it makes sense to embrace more agile, networked structures enabled by globalnetworks for new kinds of collaboration.6. The Arab seasons: Getting beyond wiki revolutions to democratic, secular governmentsIn Egypt and Tunisia we saw a revolution in how to foment revolutions. Now we need to reinvent how tobuild democracies. Enabled by social media, anti-government leadership in these two countries came fromthe people themselves rather than a traditional vanguard. Tools such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitterradically lowered the cost and effort of collaboration and undermined state censorship. Now leaders arebeginning to use the same tools to help build functional democracies. “Social networks, Twitter and textingwere critical to the revolution,” said Yassine Brahim, Tunisia’s new minister of infrastructure and transport,last year at Davos. “We are going to leverage social media to build a horizontal democracy rather than avertical democracy.” We must ensure that the wiki revolutions result in just societies, and not be taken overby the old regime or other regressive forces.7. As the Old Media collapse, improve how We inform ourselves as societiesTraditional media such as newspapers and magazines continue to decline, in turn eroding the traditionalways we inform ourselves. Meanwhile there is an information explosion being caused by new media:Between the beginning of history and the year 2003, five exabytes of information were recorded. Today fiveexabytes of information are recorded every 24 hours. There are new dangers of information overload,balkanization, and the fragmentation and credibility of online content. Yet with the explosion of “the thirdscreen” — mobile devices — there are vast new opportunities to inform people in the farthest reaches of thedeveloping world.There are new emerging models for societies to be informed. How can we avoid a world where people onlyreceive the information they agree with – isolating us into self-reinforcing echo chambers of content? Howdo we ensure quality, good judgment, investigative reporting, and balance? New thinking suggests each ofus can become a media citizen where we manage out media diet to be appropriately informed. What canbusiness, government and the media industry do to develop media citizenry?
8. Ending the government debt crisis: New models for cheaper, better governmentThe concept of “Reinventing Government” has been around for two decades. But its time has come. Thesovereign debt crisis in Europe and the spiraling debt in America and other Western countries call for morethan tinkering. Coupled with citizen resistance to increased taxes, there is an emerging crisis where thebasic funding for government operations is threatened globally. There is now a new medium ofcommunications that only changes the way we innovate and create goods and services – it can change theway societies create public value.Governments can become a stronger part of the social ecosystem that binds individuals, communities, andbusinesses—not by absorbing new responsibilities or building additional layers of bureaucracy, but throughwillingness to open up formerly closed processes and data to broader input and innovation.Governments can become a platform for the creation of services and for social innovation. It providesresources, sets rules and mediates disputes, but allows citizens, non-profits and the private sector to sharein the heavy lifting. This is leading to a change in the division of labor in society about how public value iscreated, and holds the promise of solving the debt crisis.9. New models of regulation: The citizen regulatorThe financial meltdown illustrated how the speed, interdependency and complexity of the new realities maketraditional centralized rulemaking and enforcement increasingly ineffective. There are too many innovations,products, relationships and activities to effectively oversee and regulate. After years of chronic underfundingmany regulatory agencies are ill-equipped to pick up the slack of the past, let alone confront novelchallenges for which they have neither the resources nor the expertise.If the traditional approach is inadequate, what can supplement it? Effective regulation is more likely to stemfrom efforts that increase transparency and public participation. Rather than simply regulating, governmentscan drive transparency and civic engagement in industries from financial services to energy – not as asubstitute for better regulation but as a complement to traditional command and control systems.But do individuals and civil society organizations have the capacity to help regulatory bodies develop moreeffective systems of monitoring and enforcement? Do connected citizen regulators really have the power tochange behavior of corporations and other institutions? What needs to change to make this a reality? Whatare the implications for traditional regulatory approaches?10. Kick-start job creation through entrepreneurshipThe “jobless recovery” is an oxymoron. There is no recovery unless it is inclusive. Unemployment levelsaround the world are brutally high, particularly for young people. We urgently need to create more jobs, andwe know that eighty percent of new jobs come from companies that are less than five years old. The goodnews: every day it’s increasingly easy to start a business. The internet provides young companies withunprecedented access to the resources and promotional tools once associated only with larger and oldercorporations. And start-ups have the advantage of not being saddled with bureaucracy and other legacycosts.To create jobs governments should adopt fresh policies to encourage entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs alsoneed more than just money – they need encouragement in the form of a supportive environment, access toresources, talent, innovations, and customers. We need to break the entrepreneurship logjam.11. Privacy in the age of social networkingThe privacy community is in shambles. In the past the threat was Big Brother (governments) assemblingdetailed dossiers about us. Then came Little Brother (corporations) creating detailed customer profiles.Today the problem is the individuals themselves. Hundreds of millions are revealing detailed data aboutthemselves, their activities, their likes/dislikes, etc. online every day.This situation has turned traditional privacy laws and regulations upside down. Privacy and data protectionlaws emphasize the responsibility of organizations to collect, use, retain and disclose personal information ina confidential manner. But collaborative networks in contrast, encourage individuals themselves to directlyand voluntarily publish granular data short-circuiting the obligations of organizations to seek informedconsent.To make things worse, some social networking leaders confuse this issue with transparency. Buttransparency is the obligation of institutions to communicate pertinent information to their stakeholders.
Individuals have no such obligation. In fact, to have a secure life and self-determination, individuals have anobligation to protect their personal information. Transparency and privacy should go hand in hand.I don’t buy the view that “Privacy is dead, get over it.” Privacy is the foundation of a free society. What newcan be done to prevent the destruction of privacy as we know it?12. Reversing the tide of climate change through global networksClimate change seems to have fallen off the radar. The failure of world leaders to negotiate a meaningfulresponse to the problem of climate change has dented confidence in the ability of international institutions toprovide effective leadership on this issue.Rather than waiting for government action, people and institutions everywhere are beginning tocollaborate—for the first time ever—around a single idea: changing the weather. There are now distributedbusiness laboratories where social entrepreneurs can launch experiments, build communities and attractfunding for their ventures.In social networks peers challenge each other to take actions that reduce emissions and measure theircollective progress over time. We are seeing the rise of a “green technology commons” where industriesshare intellectual property and other assets that could hasten the transition to a low-carbon economy. Web-based tools turn raw data into usable information, allowing stakeholders such as investors, regulators andordinary citizens to monitor the progress of communities, nations, and corporations towards carbonneutrality.What are these new networks that are mobilizing households, workplaces and communities around theworld to confront the climate change crisis? What can be learned about achieving global cooperation fromthis extraordinary movement?13. New models of democracy for the Digital AgeIn many countries civic engagement by young people has been growing for years, but as evidenced by theNovember 2010 Federal Elections in the United States, around the world voting among young people isdeclining. Governments and democracy run the danger of becoming irrelevant. Many surveys show thatyoung people are not comfortable with the old model where citizens are inert between elections and electedpoliticians and unelected bureaucrats do all the work.To achieve social cohesion, good government and shared norms, the new realities demand a second waveof democracy based on a culture of public deliberation and active citizenship. This is not direct democracy: it stis about a new model of citizen engagement and politics appropriate for the 21 century. There are greatnew initiatives underway, especially at the city level.14. Opening up the financial services industryThe global financial crisis destroyed long-term confidence in the financial services industry in the U.S. andother industrialized nations. But restoring confidence will require more than government intervention andnew rules. What’s needed is an entirely new modus operandi for the financial services industry. Key players(banks, insurers, investment brokers, rating agencies and regulators) need to embrace transparency andintegrity as the basis for credible and effective safeguards.New models based on openness, transparency and participation are already changing many parts of thefinancial industry — from venture capital to mutual funds and even lending.So why not deploy a digital response involving collaboration on a mass scale to properly evaluate andassess the value and risk of new financial instruments? Exposing complex financial instruments to thescrutiny of the thousands of experts who have the knowledge to vet the underlying assumptions couldrestore trust in banks, kick start venture capital, unfreeze the paralysis of lending markets and lay afoundation for a financial service industry that fosters the growth and prosperity of the world’s economies.15. New models in health: Towards collaborative healthcareCountries everywhere are struggling to develop effective yet affordable healthcare systems. But all thesedebates assume an old model of health where patients are passive recipients of medical care and play littleor no role in deciding their treatments plans. Patients are isolated from one another and rarely communicateor share knowledge. Healthcare occurs primarily when the citizen enters the healthcare system.For many years, this was the only model possible. But Web 2.0 puts the informed patient into a new context.It enables a new model of medicine experts call “collaborative healthcare.” This approach would be less
expensive, safer and better. For the first time, people could self-organize, contribute to the sum of medicalknowledge, share information, support each other and become active in managing their own health.Engaged patients manage their own health more effectively, reduce costs and improve medical outcomes.Every baby and citizen should have a web site – half medical record and half social network for health. Howdo we get the medical establishment buy into it? What are the implications for healthcare providers andpolicy makers?16. A next step for social media: social business?How is Social Media changing business? Companies everywhere are using platforms like enterprise socialnetworks, micro-blogging, wikis, digital brainstorms, challenges and ideation tools to collaborate internally.These are becoming a new operating system for a business improving its metabolism-capacity tocollaborate.However, recent examples illustrate that social media is becoming a new mode production that changes theway economies and firms innovate, create wealth and compete. Beginning years ago with Wikipedia and theLinux operating system and extending today to entire industries like the manufacturing of motorcycles inChina. Closed, hierarchical corporations that once innovated in secret can now tap, and contribute to, amuch larger global talent pool—one that opens up the world of knowledge workers to every organizationseeking a uniquely qualified mind to solve their problem.Scientists can accelerate research by open-sourcing their data and methods to offer every budding andexperienced researcher in the world an opportunity to participate in the discovery process. Social media isbecoming social production. How can companies benefit rather than being harmed?17. New models for the music and entertainment industriesThe music industry was the canary in the mineshaft for the entertainment industries. Digital music offers anhistoric opportunity to place artists and consumers at the center of a vast web of value creation. But thesenovel dynamics have turned the record industry on its head. Rather than build bold new business modelsaround digital entertainment the industry has sought legal solutions to disruption. (The third-greatest sourceof revenue for U.S. labels is lawsuits against customers.)Arguably, an obsession with control, piracy, and proprietary standards on the part of large industry playershas only served to further alienate and anger music listeners. With artists now increasingly turning againstthe record industry’s lawsuits, however, momentum may be shifting in favor of a better way forward.How can customers share music while ensuring that musicians, composers and promoters are fairly paid fortheir work? How could labels develop Internet business models with the right combination of “free” goods,consumer control, versioning, and ancillary products and services? Could music become a service whereconsumers have access to online streaming audio of any song for a monthly fee? What new platforms forfans’ remixes and other forms of customer participation in music creation and distribution are required? Howcould new approaches apply to other aspects of cultural content like film, television, books and even art?18. New models for higher education: collaborative learning and content creationWithout fundamental reform, universities will not be able to compete with cheaper and more effective onlineeducation providers. While many young people are still going to university, a growing portion of the best andthe brightest students have given up attending classes, because the information is available in a more easilyingested form online.Universities must shift their business model from the centuries-old notion that a professor lectures students,to a more collaborative, interactive model. Instead of being the “sage on the stage,” teachers should be theco-pilot for students as they explore and collaborate online to acquire knowledge.We also need an entirely new modus operandi for how the content of higher education—the subject matter,course materials, texts, written and spoken word and other media—is created. Rather than the old textbookpublishing model, which is both slow and expensive for users, universities professors and other participantscan contribute to an open platform of world-class educational resources that students everywhere canaccess throughout their lifetime.How can leaders create a Global Network for Higher Learning? If universities open up and embracecollaborative learning and collaborative knowledge production, they have a chance of surviving and eventhriving in the networked, global economy.
19. The new demographic revolution: Embracing the Net Generation as young adultsThe world is becoming younger with over half the population under the age of 25. With many having grownup bathed in digital bits, they are adept with interactive media and completely comfortable with technology.Research shows that those with access to the Internet are the first-ever global generation – with strongnorms for freedom, customization, collaboration, integrity and innovation.As they enter the workforce and marketplace, they are a huge force for transformation in every institution.But are we ready? How are they different? What do firms, governments, and educational institutions need todo to embrace them? What can we learn from them when redesigning our institutions for the new realities?20. The New power of the commonsIncreasingly it’s becoming difficult or even impossible for companies to achieve breakthrough successwithout changing their entire industry’s modus operandi. In particular it increasingly makes sense for all thecompanies in an industry to cooperate for success by sharing intellectual property – placing important assetsin the commons.Pharmaceutical companies are about to drop off what’s called “the patent cliff.” They will lose 25-40 percentof their revenue as the patents for many blockbuster drugs expire. There is little individual companies can doto recover from this crisis. They need an industry-wide solution that rethinks how they work together as anindustry — to restructure industry practices and share some pre-competitive basis research or sharing theirclinical trial data, such as results from failed trials or from control groups.Banks need to share information about risk management. Manufacturers need to take a page from Nike andshare information, software and other assets for sustainable business practices. The auto companies shouldplace fuel cell development in the commons. We need a new intelligent power grid for the production anddistribution of energy. Co-development and collaboration within the industry and sharing is necessary. Butindustry leaders need to wake up and step up.