Chapter 1

First, Some Context

No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for somebody else.

—Bill Joy

In 2000, Goldcorp CEO Rob McEwen was frustrated with the relatively poor performance of Goldcorp’s Red Lake Mine in Ontario, Canada. Goldcorp’s geologists had experienced limited success in pinpointing the gold’s underground location. McEwen knew he was literally sitting on a gold mine but unable to realize its potential. Then McEwen found himself at an executive education session at MIT. In a session where open source software was being discussed, it dawned on him what needed to be done. Open source software benefitted from the ongoing analysis, review, testing, and contributions of a large diverse group of people working for multiple different organizations. Could he employ similar principles to help his team improve their understanding of his mine’s potential?

McEwen took an unprecedented step in his industry. He assembled digital representations of Goldcorp’s proprietary geological data and made it available to people outside the company. He challenged them to prospect, using the digital representations of the mine. The challenge was launched on Goldcorp’s website. Everything related to the Red Lake Mine—400 megabytes worth of data about the 55,000-acre site—went online and was transparent to the world. Participants were offered prize money of $575,000 for the best ideas.

The response was astonishing—especially for an industry that had always believed the key to ...

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