Don Tapscott
Executive Chairman of the Blockchain Research Institute | Prolific Author on Books about Blockchain and the Digital Economy
Big Data & Data Science
Thinkers 50 2019 Hall of Fame Inductee

Don Tapscott, CEO of The Tapscott Group, is one of the world’s leading authorities on the impact of technology on business and society. He has authored over 16 books, including Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, which has been translated into over 25 languages.

Don has been advancing groundbreaking concepts for over 3 decades. His 1992 bestseller, Paradigm Shift, helped coin this seminal management concept, and The Digital Economy, written in 1995, changed business thinking about the transformational nature of the Internet. Two years later he helped popularize the terms “Net Generation” and “the Digital Divide” in Growing Up Digital.

Don’s ambitious book was co-authored with his son, startup CEO and bitcoin governance expert Alex Tapscott. Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Underlying Bitcoin is Changing Business, Money and the World was published in May 2016 and is, according to Harvard Business School’s Clay Christensen, “the book, literally, on how to survive and thrive in this next wave of technology-driven disruption.” In 2018, Don and Alex published an updated edition with a new subtitle: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies Is Changing the World. The updated edition includes a new preface and chapter explaining recent developments in the world of blockchain, including cryptoassets, ICOs, smart contracts, and more.

His most recent book, Big Ideas: Chancellor Don Tapscott Speaks to a New Generation, is a collection of speeches from his tenor as Trent University Chancellor.

In 2017, Don and Alex co-founded the Blockchain Research Institute whose 70+ projects are the definitive investigation into blockchain strategy, use-cases, implementation challenges and organizational transformations. The Blockchain Research Institute is partnered with INSEAD, the world’s top business school, as a founding academic partner to create a definitive MOOC about blockchain.

In 2020, Don was named Honorary Dean of Lingang Research Institute, the Binance Academy's new blockchain research institute in China. "With a focus on blockchain research and education, the Lingang Research Institute will provide resources to support industry and academic research, as well as foster blockchain talent and provide professional development courses, technical and enterprise skills training, and consulting services."

Don is a member of the Order of Canada and is ranked the 2nd most influential management thinker in the world by Thinkers50. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Rotman School of Management and Chancellor of Trent University in Ontario. It is hard to imagine anyone who has been more prolific, profound, and influential in elucidating today’s technological revolutions and their impact on the world.


  • Co-founder, Blockchain Research Institute in Toronto
  • Adjunct Professor, INSEAD
  • CEO, The Tapscott Group
  • 11th Chancellor of Trent University
  • Associate of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University
  • Vice Chair of Spencer Trask Collaborative Innovations
  • 4th on the Thinkers50 2015
  • Adjunct Professor of Management at the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto
  • Former Chief Executive, New Paradigm
  • Frequent writer for The Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Business 2.0, Financial Times, and USA Today
  • Interviewed and quoted widely in the broadcast media including CNN, NBC, CBS, NPR, and the BBC
  • Over 400 keynotes and presentations over the past five years
  • Benefactor, along with his wife Ana Lopes, Tapscott Chair in Schizophrenia Studies, University of Toronto
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Trust and Competitiveness in the Age of Transparency
Don Tapscott, one of the world’s leading authorities on business strategy, explains the rise of transparency and discusses how firms can embrace it to enhance their reputation, build trusting relationships with their staff, partners, shareholders and the public, and achieve competitive advantage. He discusses the far-reaching implications for every manager. Tapscott explains how customers can evaluate the worth of products and services at levels never before possible. Employees share formerly secret information about corporate strategy, management, and challenges. To collaborate effectively, companies and their business partners have no choice but to share intimate knowledge with one another. Powerful institutional investors today own or manage most wealth, and they are developing x-ray vision. Finally, in a world of instant communications, whistle-blowers, inquisitive media, and Googling, citizens and communities routinely put firms under the microscope.
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Winning with the Enterprise 2.0
The corporation is undergoing the biggest change in a century. Due to deep changes in technology, demographics, business, the economy and the world, we are entering a new age where people participate in the economy like never before. This new participation has reached a tipping point where new forms of mass collaboration are changing how goods and services are invented, produced, marketed, and distributed on a global basis. his change does not wreck corporate profit. If understood, it presents far-reaching opportunities for every company and for every person who gets connected, in both the developed and developing world. Don Tapscott, one of the world’s leading thinkers about the role of technology in business discusses insights from his new book Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration changes Everything. He explains how a “Perfect Storm” of four drivers for change is creating the first category 6 business storm. 1. The technology revolution — the rise of the Web 2.0 2. A demographic revolution — the rise of the Net Generation 3. A social revolution — social networking and the explosion of community 4. An economic revolution — the global unbundling of the vertically integrated corporation posing the need to not just think, but act globally. The conclusion? A new Enterprise 2.0 is emerging — one that innovates, creates value, orchestrates capability and builds relationships differently than the corporation that has dominated the 20th century. These new enterprises compete better and grow faster than the old model. But how can firms find the leadership to make the change?
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Don Tapscott’s Wikinomics is the first book to truly come to grips with the most profound change in corporate architecture, strategy and management in a century — the reinvention of the Web to provide the first global platform for collaboration in history. In this presentation based on the book, Don offers audiences the tools and insights required to succeed in this emerging Age of Collaboration. The knowledge, resources, and computing power of billions of people are self-organizing into a massive collective force, inter-connected and orchestrated through blogs, Wikis, chat rooms, peer-to-peer networks, and personal broadcasting. This mass collaboration is changing everything. The pace of innovation and change is accelerating, and end users — whether consumers, employees, suppliers, business partners, or competitors — now harness technology to innovate, collaborate and challenge incumbents like never before. In the world of Wikinomics, the choices for collaboration are endless. You can build your own business on Amazon; produce a television news clip for Current TV; create a community around your photo collection on Flickr; or edit the astronomy entry on Wikipedia. You can plug into InnoCentive and join Procter and Gamble’s virtual R&D department; remix the Nine Inch Nails rock album; or co-design the interactive features for your next BMW. This new participation — “peer production” — is changing how goods and services are invented, produced, marketed, and distributed on a global basis. It also presents far-reaching opportunities for every company willing to understand and master its dynamics. With vivid and engaging examples, Tapscott shows how value creation increasingly depends on these dense networks of public and private participants and large pools of intellectual property that routinely combine to create end products. Unlike Web 1.0, this new Web 2.0 links over a billion people directly, and now it reaches out to the physical world, connecting trillions of objects from hotel doors to cars. It is beginning to deliver dynamic new services, from free, long distance video-telephony to remote brain surgery. In this environment, internal capabilities and a handful of tightly coupled partnerships will no longer ensure success. Instead, firms must engage a dynamic, self-organizing ecosystem of partners to co-create and peer-produce value for customers. This presentation is based on one of the largest investigations of strategy and management to date. The project, entitled Information Technology and Competitive Advantage, was funded by 22 large corporations who invested 2 million to understand the changing nature of the corporation and how firms compete. The study’s lessons include rich case studies, valuable data, some “big ideas,” and new practices that will significantly contribute to your business growth.
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Marketing 2.0
As the net generation enters the marketplace, they are changing many facets of retail and marketing from advertising to the brand. How does the net generation influence others through their N-Fluence Networks? What should companies do to reach this generation? Why is traditional advertising becoming less effective? How are social media becoming as important as traditional media? How can you harness the power of self-organization? Why are the four P’s of marketing (Product, Place, Price, Promotion) no longer valid? How should companies rethink marketing for the 21st century?
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Government 2.0: Wikinomics, Government and Democracy
Until now, governments were modeled after the command and control industrial organizations that dominated the business landscape. If it was good enough for GM it was good enough for government bureaucrats. But in the digital economy, mammoth vertically integrated industrial corporations have started to unbundle. Today’s most successful corporations aren’t just speeded up versions of the old industrial behemoths. Instead we are seeing the rise of the business web, a much more supple and effective form of wealth creation. An equally dramatic innovation is starting to happen throughout the public sector, paralleling the new forms of commercial value creation. Around the world, creative bureaucracies are partnering with companies and organizations to develop governance webs. The big wins are not achieved simply by taking the status quo online, but by transforming the industrial age model into digital-age governance. Ultimately this promises to change the nature of democracy and the relationship between citizens and the state — for the better.
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Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World
The Net-Generation has come of age. The children of the baby boom, aged 13-30, are not only the largest generation ever — they are the first generation to come of age in the digital age. The new digital media, particularly the Internet, are at the heart of a new youth culture and a new generation who, in profound and fundamental ways, learn, work, play, communicate, shop and create communities very differently than their parents. For the first time in human history children are authorities on a central innovation. This generation gap is leading to far reaching changes in commerce and in every institution in society. In this presentation, the author of the earlier book Growing Up Digital brings us up to date on these profound transformations and their implications for organizations of all kinds, using the results of a multi-million dollar study that has followed these young people for the past decade. Don can bring some of the people in his book to participate in a panel that can also include young people from your own organization. This has proven to be a unique and exciting progam — ask us about the details.
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Rethinking Business Processes for an Age of Networked Intelligence
Industrial age processes focused on structured work. But the Industrial Economy is finally running out of gas, giving way to a new age where knowledge contained in the brains of everyone can be interconnected. People can now collaborate like never before and this has profound implications for every process. In fact, web is changing the deep structures and architecture of the corporation and how we innovate, create goods and services and engage with the world. Talent can be inside but also outside. In fact, we need to rethink and rebuild many of the organizations and institutions that have served us well for decades, even centuries, but are no longer able. Evidence is mounting that traditional economic and social pillars of the industrial age have come to the end of their life cycle. How must our institutions change for a new century, new media, new generation and a new economy? How does knowledge work and collaborate with the business process? How can companies find the leadership for this rethinking of their modus operandi?
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Urban Intelligence: Achieving Smart Connected Cities
The world’s cities are under stress with megacities paralyzed by population influx, lack of infrastructure, traffic congestion, pollution and crime. Many cities built up since the Second World War are dysfunctional and getting worse as the industrial economy collapses. Yet everywhere there are bold new collaborative initiatives for reinvention of cities. Governments of all levels realize that they can’t do this work alone. Thanks to digital information and communication technologies, it’s now more effective to develop a platform that enables the public sector and private sector to collaborate. Don Tapscott discusses how cities can transform themselves around 10 axes: Economic Development; Public Safety; Open Government; Transportation and Managing Traffic congestion, Powering the City, Clean air and water, Human Services; Education; Government Operations; and Transforming Democracy.
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Transforming the Universities
Without fundamental reform, universities will not be able to compete with cheaper and more effective online education providers. While many young people are still going to university, a growing portion of the best and the brightest students have given up attending classes, because the information is available in a more easily ingested form online. Universities must shift their business model from the centuries-old notion that a professor lectures students, to a more collaborative, interactive model. Instead of being the “sage on the stage,” teachers should be the co-pilot for students as they explore and collaborate online to acquire knowledge.
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Ending the Government Debt Crisis
The concept of “Reinventing Government” — for better cheaper government, has been around for two decades. But its time as come. The Sovereign Debt crisis in Europe and the spiralling debt in America and other Western countries calls for more than tinkering. There is now a new medium of communications that only changes the way we innovate and create goods and services — it can change the way societies create public value. Governments can become a stronger part of the social ecosystem that binds individuals, communities, and businesses—not by absorbing new responsibilities or building additional layers of bureaucracy, but through its willingness to open-up formerly closed processes and data to broader input and innovation. In other words, government becomes a platform the creation of services and for social innovation. It provides resources, sets rules and mediates disputes, but allows citizens, non-profits and the private sector to share in the heavy lifting. This is leading to a change in the division of labor in society about how public value is created, and holds the promise of solving the debt crisis.
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How More Musicians can Earn a Living in the Age of MP3s
Apple, Amazon, and Google have announced initiatives to make music available in the cloud, but the big music labels still don’t understand that viewing songs as individual products to be sold for 99 cents is the wrong approach. Music should be a service, not a product. Instead of purchasing tunes, listeners would pay a small fee — say per month — for access to all the songs in the world. Recordings would be streamed to them via the Internet to any appliance of their choosing — such as their laptop, mobile device, car, or home stereo. A huge advantage of this restructuring is that a lot more musicians could earn a living doing what they love: Singing and playing music. The superstars may make fewer millions, but our culture would benefit enormously.
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The Demise of the Newspaper and the Rise of the New News
How can newspaper executives reinvent their value propositions and their business models to survive in the digital age? First, listen to today’s youth, because within their culture is the new culture of news and information. Second, commodity news won’t cut it for any audience, so create a distinct offering. Third, develop rich, multimedia experiences for new digital platforms and devices. Finally, embrace collaborative innovation by creating an open platform so that others can help you invent new sources of value.
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Privacy in the Age of Facebook
The Facebook leadership continues to treat privacy as an afterthought, which could prove to be its undoing. To be sure, when hundreds of millions of people post online detailed data about themselves, their activities, their likes and dislikes, and so on, they do this voluntarily. But this information should be treated with respect. Unfortunately, Facebook’s leadership confuses the right to privacy with transparency, arguing that transparency is good for individual relationships. This is misguided. Transparency applies to organizations, not people. Organizations are increasingly obliged to communicate pertinent information to their customers, shareholders, business partners and so on. This is not the case for individuals. Indeed, individuals have an obligation to themselves to safeguard their personal information. And institutions should be transparent about what they do with our personal information.
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Corporations in the Age of Hyper-Transparency
WikiLeaks continues to release classified government and corporate information. But it is just the tip of the iceberg. Increasingly all organizations operate in a hyper-transparent world. Today customers can use the Internet to help evaluate the true worth of products and services. Employees share formerly secret information about corporate strategy, management and challenges. To collaborate effectively, companies share intimate knowledge with one another. And in a world of instant communications, whistleblowers, inquisitive media, and Google, citizens and communities routinely put firms under the microscope. So if a corporation is going to be naked — and it really has no choice in the matter — it had better be buff. Companies that embrace transparency will prosper. Tapscott explains how.
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Overcoming the Inability of International Organizations to Solve 21st Century Problems
Institutions for global problem solving, such as the UN or G20, aren’t meeting our needs. Witness recent failures such as the Doha Development Round of the World Trade Organization and the Copenhagen conference on climate change. And the good things that are happening around the world, such as the struggles for democracy in the Middle East and north Africa, are not being made because of our global systems for co-operation, they are happening in spite of these institutions. Progress towards democracy is the result of citizens using social media to self-organize and rise up against dictatorships. Our existing global institutions created the status quo, and in their current form are simply incapable of dealing with modern challenges.
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Kick-starting Job Creation
The “jobless recovery” is an oxymoron. There is no recovery unless it is inclusive. Unemployment levels around the world are brutally high, particularly for young people. We urgently need to create more jobs, and we know that eighty percent of new jobs come from companies that are less than five years old. The good news: every day it’s increasingly easy to start a business. The internet provides young companies with unprecedented access to the resources and promotional tools once associated only with larger and older corporations. And start-ups have the advantage of not being saddled with bureaucracy and other legacy costs. To create jobs governments should adopt policies to encourage entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs also need more than just money — they need encouragement in the form of a supportive environment, access to resources, talent, innovations, and customers. This can be done with Web 2.0 and social networking. Tapscott explains how.
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Addressing the Coming Worldwide Generational Conflict
Today’s youth were told that if they got a college degree, worked hard, and stayed out of trouble, they would have a prosperous and fulfilling life. But that’s not happening. Around the world, youth unemployment is far higher than the national average. Young people are disillusioned, and their high unemployment raises the spectre of a new youth radicalization. In the ‘60s, youth radicalization was based on causes such as opposing the Vietnam War. Today’s radicalization is deeply rooted in personal broken hopes, mistreatment, and injustice. Today’s frustrated youth have at their fingertips the most powerful tool ever for finding out what’s going on, informing others and organizing collective responses. We could see a protest movement that makes the 1960s look like kids’ play. How can we avoid this situation?
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Beyond Wiki Revolutions to Democratic, Secular Governments
In Egypt and Tunisia we saw a revolution in how to foment revolutions. Now we need to reinvent how to build democracies. Enabled by social media, anti-government leadership in these two countries came from the people themselves rather than a traditional vanguard. Tools such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter radically lowered the cost and effort of collaboration and undermined state censorship. Now leaders must use the same tools to help build functional democracies. “Social networks, Twitter and texting were critical to the revolution,” says Yassine Brahim, Tunisia’s new minister of infrastructure and transport. “We are going to leverage social media to build a horizontal democracy rather than a vertical democracy.” Tapscott explains how. In Egypt and Tunisia we saw a revolution in how to foment revolutions. Now we need to reinvent how to build democracies. Enabled by social media, anti-government leadership in these two countries came from the people themselves rather than a traditional vanguard. Tools such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter radically lowered the cost and effort of collaboration and undermined state censorship. Now leaders must use the same tools to help build functional democracies. “Social networks, Twitter and texting were critical to the revolution,” says Yassine Brahim, Tunisia’s new minister of infrastructure and transport. “We are going to leverage social media to build a horizontal democracy rather than a vertical democracy.” Tapscott explains how.
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Avoiding a 20 Year Slump
More and more pundits admit that Tapscott was right a year ago when he said “This economics crisis is not over, it’s just beginning.” But how do we avoid a prolonged period of calamity? Tapscott holds that the future is not something to be predicted but achieved, and to fix a broken world we must first understand the true problem. The economic crisis is unprecedented, but is just one aspect of the world going through fundamental change as the industrial age comes to a close. Because of digital information and communication tools, society needs to embrace a new set of principles for the 21st century — collaboration, openness, sharing, interdependence and integrity. Moreover, we shouldn’t look solely to big government or big corporations to supply the answers. We should also look to new web-based, collaborative technologies to rebuild our failing institutions. Entrepreneurship and Innovation will be key. But what is to be done?
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The New Analytics
To be competitive in this new environment, organizations need to analyze complex business environments in enough time to respond effectively — and that requires a better approach to the explosion of data and information. The amount of data pouring into the social web is staggering. Every minute of every day, 48 hours of content is uploaded to YouTube, 47,000 apps are downloaded from Apple, 684,478 items are shared on Facebook, 100,000 new posts appear on Twitter and 2 million search queries are sent to Google. Combining this with company data, whether it is structured (customer relationship management, supply chain, point-of-sale) or unstructured (social media, blogs, call centre recordings) and organizing it in a user-friendly way is a huge challenge. In the past, analytics focused on internal information that supported tactical decisions aimed at cost avoidance. It informed a few select executives whose scope of analysis remained inside firm boundaries. Interfaces were complex and access was limited to sophisticated IT experts. The systems themselves were static, producing a series of standardized reports. Finally, they supported sporadic strategy planning processes that were subject to rigid rules. A new approach extends analytics to a broader range of employees, as well as external stake-holders. It enables and supports collaboration within and outside the enterprise. An articulated transparency strategy defines who receives what information, under what conditions, with what frequency and in what formats. Integrating internal and external information enables competitive advantage. Cost reduction is no longer the only focus: managers use data about customer behavior, supply chain performance and the market to drive revenue growth. Tools are visual and interactive, enabling non-specialized users to identify and act on opportunities and challenges. Information delivers predictive insights in addition to historic analysis, enabling a continuously evolving strategy plan guided by corporate performance management criteria. As corporations grapple with ever increasing volumes of data, they need to deliver it to the decision-making individuals in the front lines. Younger workers are comfortable with interactive tools and expect access to the information they need to perform effectively. By engaging and collaborating throughout the firm and with its entire b-web, a firm drives decisions to the points of highest impact. Don shares the result of a recent research project called Rethinking analytics for the Social Business, discussing topics like: -how social changes analytics -the new role of analytics in marketing, supply chain, manufacturing, R@D and business strategy -how to leverage structured and unstructured data for competitive advantage -lighthouse case study examples of how companies are getting it right -how to monetize “information exhaust” -what organizational changes (in structure and philosophy) are required.
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Jazz and the New Model of the Enterprise | TOPIC: Special Programs
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Blockchain Revolution | USI
Don Tapscott
Solving the World's Problems Differently
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Don Tapscott, new book: "Blockchain Revolution" | McKinsey interview
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How the blockchain is changing money and business | TED 2016
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The Metaverse | Blockchain Research Institute
Don Tapscott
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