I'd like to explore the potential of wikis as a way to encourage informal learning and wondered if anyone's tried these yet? There are countless examples of organisations who've used these successfully externally to generate ideas from the general public or specialists who happen to have taken an interest but has anyone tried them internally? I think they have enormous potential for sharing best practice, innovation, breaking down organisational barriers, signalling a cultural shift towards informal learning that better suits our working environment today plus the added bonus of being light on resources. Any general thoughts as well as experiences of using wikis welcome!
We would have perhaps been amongst the earlier adopters of wikis starting as early as the late 90's through our association with Ward Cunningham, the inventor of the age old wiki-wiki-web. That said, I can safely say we could have exploited our early adoption of wikis much better. Not to say we don't have a successful implementation. Thoughtpedia - our organisational wiki is home to all our organisational capabilities. It's what Andrew Mcafee would call an ideal Enterprise 2.0 system - freeform, frictionless and emergent. That said, here are a couple of things we've learnt on the journey:
* A blank slate is always difficult to start from - so having a critical mass of useful content is crucial for people to contribute.
* Evangelism is key -- putting usable tools is not enough. People need to be aware of good citizenship on the platform; e.g. tagging, enhancement, etc
* Reward contributions - it's important to make frequent contributors visible and if this is crucial enough then maybe integrate this into your performance management system. Be careful to make performance metrics meaningful - a reputation model can be really useful.
* Community management and content stewardship is indispensable. It takes focus to take promising starts to being meaningful contributions. Also, good community managers are great coaches to up and coming contributors.
I could go on with the list, but those are my top tips. If you'd like, I'm happy to offer a tour of our wiki infrastructure for you.
Thanks for you contribution, really helpful! I'd be keen to take you up on your offer of a tour, as I'm sure others who've been following this discussion are too. Since the LSG is all about sharing knowledge, how would you feel about doing a webinar via Go To Meeting/Webex or similar? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to exlpore further.
I recently used a wiki to implement a learning solution for professional development training. It was aimed at a global audience allowing people to dip in and out of the training as and when they required. I introduced the concept of the wiki on the home page of the site and incorporated other media such as the CommonCraft wiki video on YouTube to get people familiar with the concept in an informal way. Then I got the participants to start using the wiki with some basic tasks like introducing themselves and their role in the organisation via a template I created. Alan Bellinger makes some great points above and to be honest in one form or another these are basically most of the things that I covered and thought about as part of the design.
Sumeet Moghe has kindly agreed to chat about his experiences of wikis with us via webinar at 9.30am on Monday 17th May. If you'd like to listen in and ask a few questions email me at email@example.com and I'll send you the invite to this short, informal session.
Thanks for this Jo really appreciate you recording the session. Sumeet thank-you for taking the time to deliver the webinar on a really interesting subject . I think a lot of questions that were asked answered the sorts of questions I was looking to ask.
One question I do have is linked to the point you made about blogging. I think you mentioned that people in your business don't really blog anymore. It gave the impression that people had blogged in the past but don't any longer, I was just wondering why that was the case?
It was interesting to see that you use Firefox as your browser and that you base a lot of your other functionality and tools on Google applications. Both open source with tons of uses and add-on's that would be so useful for any L&D professional.
Overall I got the impression that you have a totally different approach to how you and your colleagues work together and how you use technology. Thanks for the insight.
Glad you found the webinar useful. About blogging. We blog a lot, but we don't really blog internally as much - though I think some internal blogs could be useful. I think it's a conscious decision to not compete with the web. What we've done instead is aggregate blogs from all ThoughtWorkers at this location - http://blogs.thoughtworks.com
This way, we're harnessing the intelligence that people share on the web, without competing with it. In a similar manner we try to leverage slideshare conversations, twitter feeds and the like as well.
Yes, wikis can be great. I have had a lot of success in the last 6 months with one wiki, that has become so useful that lots more areas of our business are now starting them. I've found that it has been successful because:
1. The wiki has contained all the steps that new starters need to do their jobs, thus it is an essential resource, not a nice to have.
2. It has contained embedded spreadsheets with latest performance stats - again, making it an essential resource. And we embed calendars for a quick and easy way for people to see what's going on in the company.
3. Employees have added content to the wiki that has made their working lives easier.
4. We changed from a Wikispaces Wiki to Google Sites (partly because we moved from Lotus Notes onto Google Apps for email, calendar, docs and everything). I discovered that Google Sites are AMAZINGLY easy for everyone to use and for non technical people to set up.
5. We get new starters creating their own wiki 'about me' page right on day one - that way they realise how easy it is to edit, save, add pages, embed pictures/video/links. Sometimes we show them the Common Craft video called 'Wikis in Plan English' which teaches them what wikis are and how to edit in 3 minutes flat.
6. So I guess that my big learning point is - give everyone editing rights (we don't restrict it at all), use it for essential information and news, start with one group and get it working really well - if it is good and useful, other people will want it.
7. My final learning point - I personally wouldn't spend ages in working groups etc planning the structure. I think that you can do it really fast. Decide on the structure and key features, then go for it. It took me 1/2 a day to create a basic Google Site with quite a lot of content. It may get a bit messy from time to time, but I'd rather messy and used than pristine and untouched and unloved (as per many many intranets).
Feel free to contact me directly if you'd like any other info.