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ONLINE BUSINESS

Book Review: Too Big to Know
 

Author David Weinberger's latest ponders how knowledge-"previously a finite body of expert opinion and accepted fact-"is now unbound, thanks to the Internet.
Too Big To Know, David Weinberger

Inc.

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The book: Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room, by David Weinberger; Basic Books.

The big idea: Knowledge-;previously a finite body of expert opinion and accepted fact-;is now, thanks to the Internet, unbounded, protean, and impossible to master. Decision makers must get comfortable managing an abundance of information and reconciling diverse perspectives.

The backstory: Weinberger, a senior researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, has been a prescient cartographer of the new digital world since co-authoring the seminal Cluetrain Manifesto in 1999.

All of us are smarter than any of us: As more brains contribute to the creation of knowledge online, Weinberger observes, more brains are required to wrest value from it. Consequently, leaders will start to rely on networks to make decisions. For instance, Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, devolves most decision making to the Wikipedia community.

If you read nothing else: Chapter Two includes a fascinating history of facts as they evolved from scarce, isolated foundations of knowledge to abundant nodes on a network open to interpretation and dispute.

Food for thought: As individual expertise is devalued, how will that affect consulting firms and other businesses that tout unparalleled mastery of a subject? 

From the December 2011 issue of Inc. magazine

LEIGH BUCHANAN is an editor-at-large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture.
@LeighEBuchanan




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