Enterprise 2.0 — How wikis can make sense in a company setting

One of the top sites in pretty much any country is Wikipedia, with some 360 million monthly visits.  It is 7th worldwide per Alexa (6th in the US, 11th in France and 124th in China).  The very notion of wikipedia, however, defies corporate logic and the ability for companies to adopt wiki platforms in the workplace remains a giant struggle.  Successful examples, of course, exist, not least of which is the major wiki put in place across the 16 different intelligence agencies in the US.  But, first exactly what is a wiki? I take the definition offered by Wikipedia itself (presumably an authority on the topic).  A wiki is a collaborative “website that allows the easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked web pages via a web browser using a simplified markup language or a WYSIWYG text editor.”  The definition offered by wikipedia has its merits, but I think it ought to mention the part about tracking the chronological path of the edits.

Despite the extraordinary success of wikipedia, how is it that Wikis are not customary in companies?  The answer:  Because wikis involve change management.  Companies which operate in silos and whose upper management remain in a ‘command and control’ mode inevitably struggle with the apparent freedom associated with wikis.

Why should a company want to put in place a wiki? A wiki can be a great way to improve effectiveness, create efficiencies all the while fostering a more collaborative spirit.  A wiki is the perfect tool to help an enterprise transform into a learning organization, where the organization learns and grows as a living organism.  Here are two useful tips for getting a wiki to work in the workplace:

  1. make the wiki as much a part of the normal work flow as possible;
  2. explicitly look for the benefits in time savings / money savings.  How to do that?

Three concrete opportunities come to mind:

  1. Make the creation of agendas and writing of recaps for meetings in the form of a wiki.  That way everyone is responsible for the making of the agenda (with obvious oversight by the chairperson) and the recap is correct and owned by all.
  2. Any Word document or spreadsheet that is being sent by email as an attachment to multiple people is typically a good candidate for a wiki.
  3. Otherwise, any document or presentation that is being worked on by multiple parties such as a brief specification (“cahier de charges”) is a perfect case for a wiki.

Please share with me if you have any other good examples!

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