Collaboration has become a hot topic recently in workplaces around the world.
(article continues below)
It used to be that a successful firm would harness their internal talent and protect the products and ideas they created with incredible intensity.
However, with the advent of a flattening world and communication channels that span the globe, companies are finding that reaching out to larger pools of talent by making some of their information public can yield great returns.
A Toronto mining company named Goldcorp Inc. had a plot of land that their geologists were working on for gold deposits.
While they had a great base of talent internally, the process was taking much longer than expected. The plot was so massive that even though they had forty or so targets to choose from, they were receiving little return for their investment of time. Their CEO, Rob McEwen, decided to take a break from the struggling company and attend a conference at MIT for young presidents and the discussion turned to the operating system Linux.
Linux is an open source operating system that directly competes with Windows for users. It was created by a crew of around twenty programmers who were not centralized, but instead used the internet to send and receive their packages of code. It was from these currents of information flow that the operation system was assembled, piece by piece.
They then opened up the source code so that even more programmers could access it and put their own personality into the system. This became such a hit, that many programmers still use Linux today, despite the fact that Windows is made by a software giant, and Linux was made by a loose band of programmers that didn't even work in the same office.
It was there that it hit him: the next step in business is extensive collaboration. In order to get fresh, talented eyes on the company's projects, they would need to give out information that many archaic firms would deem too private for free use.
If it worked for Linux, then why wouldn't it work for their firm? The company then did something that many in the industry thought was crazy. They released all of their proprietary research into the community, which is some of the most valuable information a mining company possesses.
They then offered to give $575,000 in cash prizes to those that could produce the most lucrative targets from the plot of land. They had hundreds and hundreds of submissions from the world's geologists. More intriguing, however, were the submissions from places that many wouldn't think to look, including mathematicians, graduate students and professors.
All in all, the company mined over eight million ounces of gold from these targets. Over half of the targets were completely new to the company, and half of them affirmed the targets their own geologists had drawn up.
It is interesting to watch the different ways information travel changes.
For firms in the future and now, it will be important to expose yourself to a broad talent base. This is even more important for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
In order to grow quickly, there may need to be some collaboration with third party resources. In order for these efforts to prove successful, the company may need to give up some important information. However, when done right, this sort of endeavor can turn into a long term relationship that benefits all parties.