My latest article on wikis is now up at the Conde Nast Digital ars technica website.
Here’s a taster…
As I continue to research and write my upcoming book on wikis, I keep hearing one word over and over again. That word is “BUT” (complete with all-caps), as in, “I would like to use a wiki, BUT…” or “We tried using a wiki, BUT…”
What follows is usually an excuse for why the speaker feels that a wiki isn’t a worthwhile tool for collaboration in his or her environment. I use the word “excuse” deliberately, because rarely does anyone articulate an actual business reason, such as a lack of need. When I ask deeper questions, I invariably find that the objection isn’t to the wiki technology itself, but instead to the concept of collaborative authoring and a perceived loss of control over the content.
The true business benefits of collaborative knowledge sharing, such as improved productivity, greater efficiencies, removing cross-functional boundaries, enabling customer feedback etc., are often lost to a perceived, and understandable, fear. In the modern workplace, we have traditionally been defined, both in terms of success and hierarchy, based on what we know.
The old saying that knowledge is power has been a true axiom for a very long time, but the first few years of the new century have changed that. Internet culture, especially the social networking phenomenon of the last few years, has made knowledge-sharing the accepted norm outside of the work environment. Today, anyone who has access to an Internet connection has immediate access to a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips, to an extent literally unparalleled at any other time in human history. We expect to be able to use that information, and we expect to be able to contribute to it.
Yet there remains a reluctance to transfer this social behavior into the work environment. The knowledge base is clearly moving away from a select number of individuals towards the community; and companies that embrace the idea of community are becoming the biggest success story of recent years.