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Wikinomics and Asthma Inhalers with GPS

My travels this week took me to Calgary in Alberta, Canada, the home of the famous Canadian rodeo, the Calgary Stampede. I was in town for the annual Canadian Produce Marketing Association Convention, where I spent a few days with 1,500 of my closest Canadian produce friends.

As with all produce conventions, there were world class speakers and the speaker at Thursday’s lunch was no different.

His name is Anthony D. Williams, the author who wrote Wikinomics (2007) and taught us how mass collaboration was changing the way companies communicate, compete and succeed.

Macrowikinomics, his latest book, teaches us that, “in every corner of the globe, businesses, organizations, and individuals alike are using mass collaboration to revolutionize not only the way we work, but how we live, learn, create, and care for each other.”

I have not read his books yet, but I was fascinated by the examples he gave about the cultural shift in the way people are collaborating, resource sharing and solving problems at a much more rapid speed than ever thought possible.

As his first example, Anthony used the major oil spill, in which the cold waters on the ocean floor made the oil turn to sludge, halting the clean up efforts. The problem was posted on innoCentive, a global network of 300,000 scientists who help problem solve. A scientist in the cement business offered an easy solution and solved this major crisis, allowing the clean up to resume.

Have you heard about freelance service providers, like Elance and Odesk? These professional service marketplaces have more than 40 types of work listed with 1.5 million freelancers. You can negotiate with them directly and approve their work before payment.

And Flipped High School is revolutionizing education by allowing students to get lectures at home (via video) so they can do homework in the classroom. This new method, used in a Michigan high school, has significantly improved comprehension and student engagement.

But, I have to say, the idea that amazed me the most was a product developed just a few years ago called Spiroscout. Basically, it attaches a GPS device to asthma inhalers to track the frequency and location of asthma episodes! For modern medicine to have real, collaborative data about the causes and occurrences of asthma attacks is impressive and meaningful to those who have, or know anyone who has, asthma. (My daughter, Sophia, suffered from asthma when she was very young.)

As you can tell, I learned about more than produce during my latest trip. But, I did see some amazing yellow, orange, black and brown tomatoes, new flavorful apple varieties, big and little potatoes and a lot of dragon fruit. Canada is a huge melting pot of cultures with plenty of fresh produce to enjoy.

There is a lot we can learn from our northern neighbors!


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