Using the Wiki Method to Write a Business Book

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You can learn more about this project, or add your own comments, at the We Are Smarter Than Me project site.

We Are Smarter Than Me isn't your ordinary business book. It will be the first to be written by a wiki — an online community of writers. Anyone can participate.

The project was inspired, in part, by the open-source software movement and by the success of Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, which is largely written and edited by its users. The promoters of We Are Smarter Than Me are hoping that they, too, can harness the online community and produce a book about how to do that in business.

The creators have outlined proposed chapter headings and written the first one or two pages of each, including case studies that can be used as jumping-off points. One chapter, for example, focuses on how to manage a company when functions such as creating and marketing the product are handled by the community. How should the firm organize itself? What would the management structure look like?

More than 1,000 people have already signed up to participate; a million more will soon be getting invitations to join. But even without an invitation, you can contribute — by writing, editing, making suggestions or adding graphics.

Two of the biggest names in business education — the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — are backing the project. But Adrian Wooldridge, Washington bureau chief for The Economist, is skeptical. The author of The Witch Doctor, a highly critical look at management gurus and books, Wooldridge says business books need a coherent voice and point of view. A wiki, he says, is not the way to achieve that.

Creators of the wiki project know their ambition may turn into chaos. But even if does, they are confident they will have learned a great deal about communities and business.

By this time next year, Pearson Education, an international publishing giant which is essentially underwriting this project, hopes to have a 120-page book that will sell for $25.99. Should there be profits, they will go to charities chosen by the book's authors.

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