A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.
Experienced technology users with a history of communicating over the Web, Levine (Sun Guide to Webstyle), Locke (who has worked for MCI and IBM and written for such publications as Forbes), Searls (a senior editor at Linux Journal) and Weinberger (a regular commentator on NPR) want nothing less than to change the way the world does business. Commerce, they argue, should not be about transactions, it should be about conversations, no matter what the medium. The artifice that frequently accompanies buying and selling should be replaced by a genuine attempt to satisfy the needs, wants and desires of the people on both sides of the equation. Despite their long digressions, the authors occasionally succeed in making solid, clever points that reveal fundamental flaws in the structure of traditional businesses. Consider this comment about business hierarchies: "First they assume--along with Ayn Rand and poorly socialized adolescents--that the fundamental unit of life is the individual. This despite the evidence of our senses that individuals only emerge from groups." So far so good. But their apparent assumption that everyone in upper management, along with anyone who does not embrace every aspect of their utopian ideal, is a dolt may not be the best way to raise an army in support of their cause. Similarly, ignoring examples of companies that are already doing business differently--the magazines Inc. and Fast Company are filled with examples every month--and glossing over the specifics on how to implement their business model undercuts their credibility.