Tapping into the power of the tribe

In technology we are increasingly hearing the terms tribe, crowd and community.

We are truly in a new age. Thanks to technology’s ability to connect us to people and communities who share the same passion, we can collaborate in an open, transparent space regardless of our physical location. This ability is exciting and it’s also a powerful tool to innovate.

That’s why in the technology space we are increasingly hearing the terms tribe, crowd and community. People are coming together like never before to collaborate and create. In the accounting space, the integration of our tribes (CA, CMA, CGA) has provided a wonderfully rich source of innovation — if we choose to collaborate.

Just look at what’s been happening in other industries to see how powerful collaboration within a tribe and in the wide-open canvas that is the Internet can be:

  • Canadian mining company Goldcorp posted geological survey data for one of its mining sites on the Internet and offered money to anyone who could suggest where gold might be found. The response produced 110 targets, 80% of which proved to be productive, yielding gold worth more than $3 billion.
  • Linux, the first open-source operating system, was started by one man in 1991 when, in an online forum, he asked his tribe (fellow programmers and coders) what they wanted in an operating system. He then posted code and said, go to it. The result: Linux is the world’s second most widely deployed operating system.

In the accounting arena specifically, open-source sharing has made the eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) possible. This emerging international reporting technology was started by one person in 1997. Now, as international financial reporting standards take hold, XBRL is poised to be a game-changer when it comes to the way we communicate and exchange business information.

A little background here: when the Internet emerged, there had to be a way to send pictures, text, sound and video so that any device could consistently display fonts, colour, graphics and hyperlinks for us to read. That system is eXtensible Markup Language (XML). This allows for business benefits such as bring your own device (BYOD), where employees can use their own phones, tablets and notebooks.

XBRL is a subset of XML that addresses the unique integrated requirements that business information requires. After all, information such as long-term debt is better understood when the balance sheet, cash flow and note disclosures can all be analyzed as an integrated unit.

It’s interesting and exciting if not surprising that XBRL, IFRS, BYOD and the unification of the profession are all hitting at this particular point in our evolution. In many ways, we are in a transformative time. Just as the trade routes through the Middle East and the Gutenberg press and the Internet opened up opportunities for collaboration that were not previously available, we are now able to tap into the power of a tribe at a time when the tribe has never been more cohesive. The opportunity to collaborate and in the process to accelerate innovation has never been greater.

My goal with this column is to explore the new tools and methodologies that the knowledge age is presenting to us and how they can help us work more effectively and creatively together. I look forward to exploring with you what is possible.