A few weeks ago we talked about the changing role of management in the new economy. We only touched on the tip of the iceberg. The word “wiki” has entered our vocabulary in many new and startling ways. The word means “fast” in Hawaiian. It is now being used as a prefix for the word economics, and a new form of organizing has been recognized as “Wikinomics.” After some research on the subject, it is quite apparent that we will have to recognize the implications of this new art and science in the way we manage our businesses in the 21st century.

Wikinomics is based on four powerful ideas: openness, peering, sharing and acting globally. This week we’ll take a look at what each of these ideas means as to how we manage today. The basis of much of what we will discuss is from a recently published book, Wikinomics, How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams.

Being open is associated with candor, transparency, freedom, flexibility and access. This isn’t something usually associated with the traditional corporation today. In the conventional wisdom, companies compete by holding their most important secrets close to the vest and try to hire the best people in the field since that is considered the foundation of competitiveness. But retaining the best people in the field is not an easy task. So, companies are beginning to open their doors to the global talent pool in order to remain competitive. Later on we’ll see how this is already impacting many areas.

Hierarchies of one form or another (such as the military, church and government) have shaped our world from ancient times to modern institutions. It is so pervasive that any other form of organization is almost inconceivable. While this form of organization isn’t going to disappear in the foreseeable future, a new form of horizontal organization is emerging. This new form of organization is known as peering. Two classic examples of peering are the development of the Linux operating system open for changes to all users and the Wikipedia online encyclopedia.

Today, it is conventional wisdom that companies should control and protect proprietary information and intellectual property. In some industries, such as the music industry, technology-literate kids using the Internet have created a whole industry of shared music outside of the industry. Of course, a company must protect its critical intellectual property, but smart firms will manage those and share some of their other assets for mutual benefit.

Globalization has already created much political concern in this country as companies reach out to other markets for services. In the last 20 years, we have seen the emergence of the Chinese and Indian markets, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the first stage of the worldwide information technology revolution. The next 20 years will see a more profound shake-up in the status quo with enormous cultural and economic convulsions.

We will continue this discussion.