Contemporary education works around knowledge itself. Knowledge is often valued for itself rather than as a mean of achieving a given aim. In the same time, modern technologies give us access to more knowledge than one could ever have dreamt of decades ago. The shift is happening right now: knowledge is not the key, but rather access to the right information at the right time.
A Clever DatabaseA wiki is written by the very people who will be using it. A page about a given topic has many chances to contain all the relevant information about that topic since potential associations have been created by visitors to that article with the available body of knowledge. A wiki transforms raw information into a richer, more readily available and structured body of knowledge. It is an extensive and evolutive source of information. Specialised individuals can collaborate together better than ever before.
Coupled With Clever PeopleA wiki provides the structural through which users can collaborate and coordinate themselves easily. What is then the "perfect" user mindset? In this view, an user should be able to go and search for the information he is looking for in the rigths places rather than knowing everything by himself. Say, knowing how to access the right bookshelf rather than learning the full transcript of a book. Wikis push this trend to its limit. The relevant point is no longer in detaining knowledge itself, but in being able to draw the right connections. Individual specialization can be harnessed while minimizing its collateral negative effects.
Perfect collaboration?The combination between intelligent users and a system that provides them with the structural basis through which tehy can interact and share together effectively open new perspectives for enterprise collaboration. The examples of Intelpedia or Pfizerpedia show how a seemingly hazardous move initiatedthe by an individual employee can bring value to the whole company. The viral nature of a wiki implies it spreading quickly. A wiki let us unleash the way we naturally tend to learn. Working together has at least found a meaning. Are you ready for this?Want more ? Stay tuned.© Guillaume Lerouge for WikiBC
I realized a few days ago that the way education is currently provided to students around the world is becoming increasingly inefficient day after day. I read some time ago a paper that stated that the only thing that has remained still for the past 100 years is the classroom. This is true and really surprising.
The Classroom ConceptWhat are the main benefits of getting in a classroom? Obviously, grouping people in a place where they can be taught by someone with a specific experience in one field, that this person will try to communicate to his / her audience. Another feature of current formal education is the fact that the majority of it takes place before you are 25, and then abruptly stops. Does it means that you stop learning when you quit school? Or even that you are properly equipped for the tasks you have to do? No. The education you received was not personalized either, which means that in the bundle of knowledges you had to absorb a wide part will neither be of any use to you. Why should we go toschool and Uni for years without even learning things that are of direct interest to us? Wikis change this.
Lifelong learning?Should lifelong learning take place in classrooms? Taken broadly, we are learning at every second of our lives. Learning how to do something specific, making connexions with what we already know, thinking baout new ways of doing things... Now with a wiki all those thoughts could not only be recorded easily, but at the same time be shared in a relevant space with people who could enrich their contents and their scope significantly. You do not need to be in the same place, at the same time anylonger to share with others. Now you can create communities of people interested in the same topic and start learning from one another in minutes. Boundaries are not a necessity. Free your knowledge!
Making intangible tangibleMost learning processes take place through interactions between people, not necessarily in a formalized manner. A wiki gives a place for the fruit of these interactions to be expressed and discussed with others. Little contributions from many end up in amazing results. You can teach yourself what you are interested in with the help of others who share your passion. Rating can take place through a pari assessment that understands comprehensively what you are trying to achieve and whether you succeeded at it. Within companies, it means that constant learning and formation concerns can be addresses much more effectivelly than ever before. Information flows and you have access to it.
Education and the ability to learn continuously are currently one of the most regarded assets in business life. A wiki will give your organization the power to pursue this objective effectively. Remember the World without Wikipedia ?Want more ? Stay tuned.© Guillaume Lerouge for WikiBC
A wiki lets people collectively transform a high amount of raw data into a useable and organized corpus of information. Most people have their own point of view about the world around us. Some of us even have more than one, depending on circumstances. But up to now there were no systematic way to transform those points of view into a coherent total.
Why Wikis Change ThisA wiki gives a space for collaboration. Now you can get in one place all the content relevant to a given topic. With the help of Widgets you can now integrate content coming from various places and put it one one page. Our brain work by making associations between neurons. Now on a wiki we can all create relationships between bits of content and enrich them by linking them together easily, tagging them and retrieving their up-to-date content via RSS Syndication.
The Quest For MeaningWhen searching on the internet, we are most of the time looking for an answer. Search engines are great, but sometimes do not turn up with the right answer. The same is true to a greater extent within companies: intranet are not meant to be easily searchable. The likes of Google Mini are starting to changing this, but even them cannot do more than automated search. The greatest benefit of a wiki in this context is that it lets people group relevant informaion together on one page (or set of pages).
Being RelevantOn a wiki, you can decide to give one page to every topic. This page will be enriched will all the content related to this topic. It will retrieve information from various different sources and be available at anytime, from anywhere. More than a reference sheet, the page will also be coherent: the content you will find on it is directly related to its title. Other potential meanings are listed and given pages on their own. How is that different from internet ? A wiki provides a place where information is classified following the needs of its very own users, where they can have a direct influence on every page. This is what 2-ways interaction means.Want more ? Stay tuned.© Guillaume Lerouge for WikiBC
There has been some buzz running lately on various tech blogs, regarding the best ways to get "social-enterprise" tools adopted faster and more easily. When it comes to wikis, various tips and tricks are suggested (amongst which my favourite is "if you don not want to end up disappointed, do not start") but there is room left for another list. At least this is what I will be arguing by doing in the following. Get Things Off To A Good Start
- Give your wiki a soul: this may look like an odd advice, particularly in a corporate setting, but it is maybe the most important one could ever give you. Think about any successful project you lead: which one did not include the strong sense of a shared purpose? Starting a wiki makes no exception.
- Refer to the wiki: if you actually expect your people to go and use the wiki, make is as well known as possible. Encourage its adoption through an intensive internal referral campaign. Clearly stating that you will not read any attachment which has not been uploaded on a wiki page is a good idea to begin with.
- Do not start from scrap: asking people to actually edit pages instead of only reading them is a concept weird enough to get to grasp with, do not add the burden of having to create your own pages (at least at the beginning). Think about putting most of the currently available material on the wiki and even start stubs for pages you feel like they deserve one.
Help Your People
- Train them: there is some hype going around, which basically says "one should be able to use any piece of software without training". ... How many hours have you spent figuring out how to use less than 10% of MS Excel potential? A wiki is not complicated to use, but one should always remember this does not mean that everybody was born knowing what to do with one. In fact, most people were not.
- Provide fast and relevant help: the one thing more annoying that a software that you cannot get to work properly is a software that you cannot get to work properly without knowing why. Whenever something does not go as well as expected, provide a resourceful help center. One that actually knows what your wiki software is, for example.
- Listen to your users: elementary? Yes. Done? ... When it comes to a new technology adoption, providing more support than necessary is a necessity. Feedback is always useful: it tells you what actually does not not work and makes user feel they are listened to. Tip: if you decide to take action from these premises, it is even better.
Keep The Wiki Going
Want more ? Stay tuned.© Guillaume Lerouge for WikiBC
PS: For those of you who wonder why I stopped at 9 rather than going all the way to 10, it is mostly because I felt like 10 was too short to provide enough advice on the topic.
- Go through the "start effect": after the buzz and enthusiasm following the launch of your corporate wiki, an after-shock state is likely to happen some way or another. This includes the 3-days period when no ones writes anything and the "what's new" page looks like your fridge. Do not be afraid to wait a little, things need time to get on the right track.
- Hire a "wiki gardener": during the beginning, information will be added in places seemingly chosen randomly on the wiki. To sort things out and give coherence to the whole, consider assigning this task as a mission to somebody. It will make a huge difference if the wiki can be browsed easily.
- Find out why this generic checklist did not work for your company: this would be my last reminder: every company is different, and implementing a coprporate wiki will hence trigger problems that are quite different too (depending on your enterprise culture, work habits and management staff...). Find out how a wiki could work for you, not how it ought to work for somebody else.
Wondering about what my next post would be about, I realized that I was using my wiki in a way that could be worth testing by some other people. Basically, it is about gathering all my sources of information in one place, creating links between them and tagging pages, too. There is a blog to keep my customers up-to-date about market news. Add the fact that I can access my hosted wiki from anywhere and it looks pretty much like the perfect solution for a consultant.Gathering InformationOn of the most important aspects when you are an independant consultant is to be able to process loads of information coming from a great number of places and transform it into valuable pieces of advice. In order to do so, I use a RSS feed reader embedded in one of the pages of my wiki. My three other e-mail accounts have their pages, too and I can access them directly through wiki pages. Whenever I find something interesting, I can add it to an existing page or create a page specifically for it (eg, I have a specific page for every key corporate wiki company). Somewhat like a private Wikipedia...Creating Relationships Then the next step is all about creating relevant links between the various topics I may have encountered. I link people to the companies they work for, I assess trends on pages and link to the individuals that took a prominent part in them. I create tags to label all the pieces of information I will have to use in order to carry out one of my projects properly. The wiki backlinks feature always lets me know where I come from while the integrated search engine makes the retrieval of information obvious. Then, once information is stored, broken in manageable chunks and classified, I use the calendar to keep a track of what I have to do and whether I made progress.Communicating With My PartnersWhile I am working on a given project, I open its dedicated space to my clients so that we can work collaboratively and exchange information easily through attached files. I discovered recently that I could display MS Office documents (such as PowerPoint Presentations) directly in wiki pages after saving them in html, and this is simply great. My clients do not have to open attached files any longer to find out what they deal with since their contents are displayed direclty on the page. I can export wiki pages in PDF too, and this is often useful to send bits of data in e-mails. Last but not least: I get a RSS feed from any tag I want, which is quite useful when it comes to following specific projects.
Basically, I can get all my information from wherever I am, provided an internet access is available. And guess what? I have not forgotten a file for a long time by now...Want more ? Stay tuned.© Guillaume Lerouge for WikiBC