Back in October 2007 Charles Leadbeater posted his first draft of ‘We Think’ on his website and made it freely available for download. The text became the basis of a wiki, inviting everyone to comment upon, add to and generally support him with his work in progress. It might be because of this approach that the book feels rather unwieldy and not as sharp as his ‘Living on Thin Air’, which was a very thought provoking read. However, the book tackles some very important ideas and explores some of the fundamental changes that the internet is enabling.
What's in it for we?
'We-Think' is the phrase adopted by Charles Leadbeater to describe the exponential growth in collective thinking. One of the major examples that Leadbeater mentions are the development of Linux and the creation of the internet encyclopedia Wikipedia.
Leadbeater views the development of Linux and open source software as the most impressive example of We Think. As Leadbeater points out open source is software that nobody owns, everyone can use and anyone can improve. Open source licensing is a way to hold ideas and information in common in a way that can encourage mass collaborative innovation.
The book points to the development of a Pro-Am culture where large groups of committed and knowledgeable amateurs, often unpaid, create highly collaborative forms of organisation ‘..doing jobs previously reserved for professionals’. It is a trend that could explode in the coming years. According to research over a billion people in Asia and South America will access the internet over the next 10 years.
Organise your own revolution
One of the interesting reflections is how open source software is co-ordinated. Rather than being centrally organized people organise themselves to the tasks they think need doing and for which they have the skills. This self-distribution according to Leadbeater is far cheaper and innovative than a centrally planned division of labour.
What's in it for learning?
In the world of learning mass collaboration and open source software are having a significant impact. Google is effectively searching a vast array of information and knowledge that people are prepared to share on the internet. You can always stop Google indexing your web pages but then it is likely very few people will ever see what you have written. Open source is also having an impact through software such as Moodle, the freely downloadable learning management system. Last year’s E-Learning Guild report revealed that a quarter of small and medium sized enterprises in the US were using Moodle. We at Kineo believe this trend can only continue, as more software becomes open source in the learning space.
Wikis are not books...
The book itself can feel unwieldy. Maybe because of the way the book was created in part through a wiki, there are very many diverse issues explored and it feels that sometimes Leadbeater is struggling to wrap them together. However, this is an impressive attempt to get to grips with the forces that are shaping the way people collaborate and fundamentally we agree: you are what you share.Buy We Think from Amazon