Innovation is not just about services, products and processes. Ultimately, it is about how we organize our society. The collapse of global capital markets in 2007-8 has generated a need to rethink and innovate our economic and social organization. But how? 

The form of “capitalism” embraced by the world in the past two decades spun out of control. One reason is that it was controlled by a tiny handful of greedy individuals who acquired billions in wealth and who invested our money recklessly, without our knowledge.  

That system has crashed and burned. Good riddance. The system, both in Israel and abroad, was not truly capitalist.  Capitalism in its purest form is about creating value for others, not about grasping short-term high-risk profits for ourselves.

I recently took part in a panel on the global crisis. Next to me sat Florence Devouard, a founding member of the Wiki foundation, which runs and funds Wikipedia.  

As panel participants dripped gloom, and offered analyses of problems but no solutions, I turned to Florence and asked:  

Can we rebuild the system as a wiki? 

Yes, of course! she responded.

A wiki society is one based on the following principles. Individuals commit themselves to helping daily friends, neighbors and strangers who have less than them. We accept personal responsibility for each other’s wellbeing and do not expect government to help much. We do this especially in our neighborhoods, to rebuild our sense of community. We each volunteer daily non-random acts of kindness. We receive as well as give. We do this with minimal organization and zero bureaucracy, using Internet technology for communication and coordination.  Indeed, as NGO’s (nongovernmental organizations) blossom daily, a kind of wiki society is being born as we speak. 

In the panel, Giora Yaron, a brilliant and successful entrepreneur, responded to my wiki society idea by calling me “my friend from HaShomer HaTzair” (a left-wing youth group). He meant that the wiki society idea was hopelessly idealistic and utterly socialist.

I laughed and remembered that in the American presidential campaign, when candidate Barack Obama suggested slashing taxes on the middle class, Republican John McCain called him a ‘socialist.’   

What a huge misunderstanding! Socialism means relying on the government for everything. In the wiki society, we rely only on each other, and on innate human goodness, energy, generosity and initiative. 

We now understand world  markets were whacky. It is time we turned ‘whacky’ into ‘wiki.’

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