Gustavo Ballvé on April 11th, 2011
Corporate Strategy, Food for thought, Home, Investment Themes, Mental models, Portfolio Management

Don Taspcott‘s (of Wikinomics fame) interview at Brazilian magazine Veja was an interesting exercise. We liked Wikinomics in “broad” terms: we’re firm believers in the power of crowdsourcing, mass collaboration made easier via social media etc., and we’ve posted repeatedly on the subject. The problem, both in the book and in the interview, is that he tends to shun everything else that doesn’t fit this framework/model. As the old saying goes: “To the man who only has a hammer in the toolkit, every problem looks like a nail.” Mr. Taspcott’s explanations for the global financial crisis of 2008-09 and the success of Goldcorp, relying almost exclusively in the Wikinomics framework, fall into that trap. Gladly, it’s an avoidable mistake.

(Note: we don’t provide the link to the interview because it won’t be available until April 15th for non-subscribers. When we do link to it, it will be in Portuguese…)

The alternatives are:

1) You keep that hammer but seek out only the problems that actually are nails – by the way, the wrong way to look at it is to equate this proposition to Buffett and Munger’s “circle of competence”. What we wrote in 1) is limiting and invites obsolescence, while Buffett and Munger do numbers 2) and 3) below;

2) You dedicate yourself to actively and relentlessly seek out new tools, frameworks, mental models, skills, experiences – whatever it takes – to improve your “toolkit”;

3) You seek to associate with people whose “toolkit” complements yours.

The best option is, of course, 2 and 3 together – even better if you can make it so the efforts behind 2) and 3) are aligned with a bigger-picture strategic plan/ vision, and that the team interaction is healthy and productive.

Yes, it’s hard to find an environment like this. If you don’t have it, try to make it happen – and if it does happen, make sure you do everything you can to nurture it. If it’s not possible, the effort you put into 2) will still be worth it.

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