The Contribution Revolution

Harvard Business ReviewThe October issue of the Harvard Business Review has an article by Scott Clark: The Contribution Revolution – Letting Volunteers Build Your Business. Mr. Clark challenges companies to tap into the contributions of people beyond their organizations. (He has clearly driven the Kool-Aid offered by Don Tapscott in Wikinomics.)

One section caught my attention:

I also began to see that user contributions are fueling some of the world’s fastest-growing and most competitively advantaged organizations—in some cases revolutionizing the economics of entire industries by radically shrinking their cost structures. Think of eBay, which opened as an online store with no inventory, leaving it up to customers to fill its “shelves” with goods to sell. Or Wikipedia, which gutted the value proposition of 230-year-old Encyclopaedia Britannica by offering a free encyclopedia written and updated frequently by unpaid amateurs. [I added the emphasis on these last two words.]

I understand the use of “unpaid” or “amateur”, but not both. People are clearly volunterring their time and energy using web 2.0 tools. Authors and editors do not get paid to contribute to wikipedia. I do not get paid to write this blog. That does not mean I am an “unpaid amateur.” Many of the contributers to wikipedia are experts in those fields. They are not “amateurs.”