How a mining company created huge value by publishing the most secret data a mining company can hold: all the geological data of the mine.
The story is now classical and counted in most books on the new collaboration tools. But it is worthwhile mentioning it and the deep lessons it holds.
Goldcorp was struggling. Its mine in Canada was loosing money, prospects were dim. Hope of finding new gold was there, geological investigations ongoing, but nobody was sure where to drill. Geologists did not agree. A long and costly additional geological investigation program was yet to come.
The CEO did not come from the mining industry. Attending a seminar in a business school, he had the following idea: and what if I was putting all the geological data public and launch a worldwide contest to advise where to find the gold?
That’s a hell of an unconventional idea in the natural resources industry: geological data is the core of the value of the company. It is the most secret of secrets.
Still the CEO went ahead, against all oppositions. All the available geological data of the mine was put on the web – more than 400 Megabyte of it. People from various industries responded to the contest, coming up with incredibly innovative ideas, new 3D visualization tools. Some of these ideas even led to new ventures. Although the winners were compensated with some money, the main value for them was the exposure and the publicity which allowed them to pursue their own projects and ventures.
They allowed the company to save millions of dollars of geological work and indeed led GoldCorp to find new deposits of gold and ultimately become one of the wealthiest gold mining companies in the industry. The CEO was sitting on a gold mine!
What are the deep lessons of this story?
Value in the Industrial Age was often based on holding to intellectual property and other proprietary knowledge, and keeping it secret.
In contrast, value in the Collaborative Age is making this knowledge public and motivating the world to enhance and transform it for the benefit of the organization.
It is not just publishing proprietary knowledge – that’s easy. It is making sure that a network of followers is deeply motivated to crunch it, transform it, experiment with it, and create something awesome. That’s the hard part. That’s the differentiator.
Creating the network of followers is key. It involves giving away to receive later. It requires a compelling purpose that motivates the followers. It is a long term endeavor.
When do you start creating the network of followers for your company?
The collective cognitive capability of humankind is once again deeply transformed by a new, ground breaking communication technology. Find out HOW cheap, long distance interactive communication transforms our collective cognitive capabilities!
In the Industrial Age, extractive and manufacturing companies were the largest and the most powerful.
They were the absolute majority of the top companies until 1985.
They were the absolute rulers of the economy.
Then, in less than a decade, they became a minority. They got overtaken by service industries – banks, insurance companies, internet companies. Today they represent less than 30% of the top companies.
We still don’t realize how this shift is deeply transforming the economic landscape. We don’t realize how pure extractive and manufacturing value has decreased relative to the value of services and creativity.
When will we start realizing that the economic system has already started its Revolution? When will we start to realize that the bumps of the economy we are going through are but the painful adjustment of our economy to the Fourth Revolution value production system?
When will we start leaning into this new value system instead of trying to revert to the Industrial Age view of the economy?
It gives revolutionary ideas in particular about what to do of the unwanted Christmas presents!
It also gives revolutionary ideas about how our day-to-day behaviors about consumption will be revolutionized.
When you think about it, consumption currently is in the broadcasting stage. The Broadcasting intermediaries are the stores and the department-stores. You buy what they have. They decide which products are being sold. They spend huge money in advertisement to try to influence tastes.
Like publishers will progressively disappear in the field of book and music publishing, so will the broadcasters of consumption. It has started. The infinite shelves of online stores like Amazon reference many more articles, and the collaborative platform of ratings and discussion gives the power to the consumers.
That idea is scary. But so real. We need to understand its intricate consequences.
Consumption broadcasters beware! The Fourth Revolution is on you! If you want to survive, anticipate!
A great example of what developing countries can bring to the world is explained in the TED talk by Shahi Tharoor on India’s soft power. This great talk is a great example of how developing countries – India in this instance – could bring a different view and approach to the world.
It is also a great example to meditate on the power of the new cheap long distance interaction in the daily life of people, even in the poorest countries.
The interesting paradox is that Shashi Tharoor was finally dismissed from his political position because he was a bit too transparent in his usage of Twitter. Some institutions still have it hard to face modern realities – and Indian bureaucracy is certainly a great example of institutions that will fight modern technology to death.
Nevertheless the Fourth Revolution will prevail. This is the direction of history. Whether the road will be smooth or bumpy is another story. We all can decide on that.
Take the 20 minutes or so to listen to that enlightening talk. It is worth it. It might change your view of the world.
I just return from a trip in one of the World’s poorest countries – Laos (181th country on 229 for per capita GDP according to the CIA’s world factbook). A great country to visit!
What is always amazing in all these countries, on all continents, including Africa, is how well connected people are today. The tuk-tuk drivers and the women selling vegetables on the market all have their mobile phones – and chat often. Cybercafes with reasonably high speed internet dot the urban landscape.
More than that – I could book my internal flight tickets or hotels in advance on the web on very good quality websites.
Cheap long distance interactive communication not only empowers those in developed countries that have something to say but could not publish before (‘the power of the long tail’), it also empowers citizens of developing countries to contribute to the debate. To interact with each other. To open to the world. To contribute without being discriminated against, because in the virtual world, people are much more equal.
We should not underestimate the power of this new interaction. Opening to “developing” countries contribution will make us realize how much these countries have to bring to our too westernized vision of the world. The diversity of their views will be an eye opener. This will drastically shift our worldview.
Are we ready to listen to the developing countries’ people voices? Are we ready for the shift?
In the Industrial Age, failure was expensive. Any activity involved material stuff, capital and sweat. You could not fail too often or you would become broke.
Today in the Collaborative Age, failure is free. All it costs is some effort and learning.
The Fourth Revolution website cost me 10$ to setup – the cost of securing the domain name. All the rest is free including the hosting. It will remain so until I decide that this initiative is worthwhile, well received, and it is worth investing a bit more money in improving the service for its followers.
If the initiative does not work, then I’ll shut it down and the only thing it will have cost me is my time. And actually I will have learned so much from the experiment that that’s more an investment than a cost.
20 years ago, to pass my message across, I would have had to write a book or newspaper article, try to find a kind publisher who would have looked at my background and decided whether he would take the risk.
So, failure is not only free today, but it is an opportunity. We can go quickly through failure cycles, learning in the process until we find the right product, idea, message.
We still don’t embrace systematically free failure because of our Industrial Age mindset. And because of our fear.
We often read about improving a little bit every day so that the compound improvement gets significant.
When will you decide to fail once a day so that the compound investment and opportunity becomes significant?