Wikinomics and Philanthrocapitalism

The influential Wikinomics blog carries a positive review of Philanthrocapitalism by Don Tapscott, a management guru who coined the phrase “wikinomics” (see our recent post on Wikipedia) and has just written another best-seller, “Grown Up Digital”. Tapscott says that “Philanthrocapitalism is a great book, and I can’t think of any category of educated person who should not read it.”

He started reading the book with a healthy scepticism about our subtitle: “When I look at the many problems confronting the world today it seems to me that the rich, more than any other group, have messed it up. And what a mess it is.” Yet by the end, he says, “My hope is that wealthy people will read this book and follow the lead of their most progressive peers. How ironic, should the rich actually end up being key to making this smaller world a better and more sustainable one?”

One of the constant themes in Tapscott’s writing is that the world is becoming increasingly transparent, not least due to the internet. Here he sees an overlap between his work and ours – because transparency may be changing the business landscape in ways that favour the sort of strategies designed to do well by doing good that we highlight in our chapter, The Good Company. “For some time there has been the expression among the Corporate Social Responsibility community ‘You do well by doing good.’ I don’t think this has been true,” he writes. “Many companies have done well by being awful – by having terrible labor practices, bad products bolstered by good advertising, externalizing costs (such as industrial emissions) on society and the like. However increasingly in the age of transparency everyone is being held to higher standards. And a new generation of people with wealth are beginning to understand that you can’t succeed in a world that is failing.” Amen to that.