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How to cyber-collaborate

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Management through Collaboration

Management through Collaboration: Teaming in a Networked World

The book, Management through Collaboration: Teaming in a Networked World, is the brainchild of Charles Wankel, Professor of Management at St John's University in New York, and an experienced author of world-class textbooks.

Wankel's credits include the best-selling textbook, Management, which he wrote with James A.F. Stoner. The third edition of Management was published in 1986 by Prentice-Hall and translated into multiple languages, including Polish and Indonesian.

His idea was to revisit, 20 years on, the old formula (based on benchmarking against other textbooks and improving on them) with a new twist: have a book developed by a global collaboration of thousands of authors from all over the world.

Image: Photo of Charles Wankel.

Charles Wankel

The application of core management principles to a world linked by networks

The book is an introductory management textbook which applies core management principles to a world linked by networks, where people in New York may be working in the same team as people from Kuala Lumpur. After chapters on the new workplace and the history of management there are further sections on the environment, planning, organizing, leading and controlling. The print edition (to be launched in 2011) will have 21 chapters with text, examples and exercises.

The print edition will be followed by a digital edition, which will contain video interviews with business professionals to provide real, live case studies, as well as podcasts and Second Life. The latter will have an important role, with each chapter containing exercises in the virtual world. This is the key centre of activity, according to Wankel: virtual worlds create a "three-dimensional interface" where companies can organize meetings without all the cost, time delay and damage to the environment perpetuated by international travel. You can create an avatar which looks like you, and you can share PowerPoints and other documents. And, it's beginning to permeate through to education, with the University of Texas being one example of an educational institution developing Second Life courses.

Mass participation

Possibly the largest ever collaborative publishing project, the book has around 1,000 co-authors from roughly 90 countries, including Iceland, The Netherlands, Grenada, Saudi Arabia, Fiji, Sweden, Italy, Romania, UK, Vietnam and the USA. Participation ranges from input to a chapter, along with many other authors, to leading a chapter or coordinating a key function such as video interviews.

A major benefit of such mass participation is to draw on the experience of a wide range of management educators to create a textbook which is genuinely culturally diverse. Such a perspective – or perspectives – is/are important in a world where workers may be meeting virtually or physically with several different nationalities in a week. And collaboration can help develop a highly complex multimedia project, which by its nature calls on many different skills other than writing: the video interviews, for example, are supported by a professional film maker and by someone with expertise in developing interview protocols.

Blue Ocean Strategy

Wankel sees this book as part of a Blue Ocean Strategy: rather than trying to compete, he's in a new area where he has genuine competitive advantage. He still, however, had difficulty convincing publishers: many felt that the introductory management textbook market was already well served, and that with launch costs estimated by one Blackwell's manager at around $500,000, a new one was just too risky. However, it was his competitive advantage which eventually landed him a contract with Routledge, which saw multiauthorship as a workaround for one of its key problems: as it wasn't principally a textbook publisher, it did not have as large a salesforce in the US as other textbook publishers, so the book's creators might to a certain extent become "prosumers" (both producer and consumer), helping with production and connecting directly to institutions.