This week, there were reportedly 100,000 golden tickets tucked in candy bars located in different corners of the World. The lucky people who found the tickets got to enter the world of Google Wave. Okay, that’s not exactly how it happened. Although a little of the imagination from a Jonny Depp or a Gene Wilder could tell you what this product is capable of, and it could be a major game-changer in many aspects of how and what we do today.
In the same way that CompuServe and America Online opened e-mail and the Internet to millions of people, Google Wave may do the same for enabling collaboration. Google describes their new platform as being “… equal parts conversation and document.” In short, take instant messaging, e-mail, social media, documents, spreadsheets, blogging and photo sharing, put them into a blender, take them out and let people magically work together in real time. Users can simultaneously edit the same document and photo album while they converse over the Internet. If they need to, they can play it back to review what was updated. It will even translate into dozens of languages on the fly, allowing people who speak different languages to work together. [Read more about Google Wave].
Google may be the first to put this together, but there are others in the wings, and the common theme is collaboration in real time. This begs the question, what would happen if millions of people started to collaborate? It could result in the type of changes not seen since the computer hit the workplace.
Take education for example. We, like many nations, are still mostly tied to a pre-industrial education model that favors read, write, and rote over preparing students to read, write, reason and innovate. Need proof? Three words: The times table.
To borrow a page from Sir Ken Robinson, children starting school this year will retire in 2069. We have no idea what the world will look like in five years, yet we are meant to be educating them for this future with an ancient skill set. Yet there are teachers ready for the challenge.
I already know educators who can’t wait to use Google Wave to have their students create multimedia presentations on history, music history and composers – and play it back in class. Others want their students to work together to capture and analyze the news of the day and extrapolate future opportunities. Even study teams can do multimedia work, all from their own homes – wherever they are on the planet. We may be entering a period where students take their own classwork to the next level – beyond where their parents and teachers can take them.
There are still many companies who demand workers come into the office every day, even on heavy snow days. This, even though they provided their employees everything they need to effectively telecommute. Some even have groundbreaking unified communications software to enable collaboration by voice, video or text without leaving their desk. We all know businesses that require the presence of their employees and others that allow the productivity from the home office. Will this collaboration tool be the one that empowers the change or will it be overruled by 1950’s management rules?
The economic downturn started thousands of small businesses. Would the Wave platform allow collaboration to develop between companies to create new partnerships and opportunities? The answer: I already see this happening without Wave; it can only expedite the process.
The truth is that Google Wave is just another technology and collaboration is just another behavior. But in the same way that e-mail and social media are changing the landscape of our society, collaboration platforms like Wave could create a new wave of interactive learning, entrepreneurs and community involvement by simply making it easier to do great things together.
Paired with video conferencing, this technology enables more than just classes, but a local merchant to talk and teach about what they do to thousands of new potential customers. It can even allow similar stores in different places to share best practices.
This is a very rose-colored view of collaboration, but from what I’ve seen, I have good reason to believe that it could be closer to the developing reality. I have seen more people collaborating to different degrees in recent years than ever before.
Besides, to quote Gene Wilder in the 1971 Willy Wonka role, “Oh, you should never ever doubt what nobody is sure about.”