The Purpose Driven Wiki

Wikis are perhaps the lowest hanging fruit in the Enterprise 2.0 collective conscience. It seems that everyone gets wikis or have at least seen Wikipedia.

But as this article points out, first time wiki users often don't get wikis even though they think they do. This is because they think that Wikis are a place for storing and accessing information once it is "done". But this just isn't the case.

I blame Wikipedia.

You see, the overall quality of Wikipedia is good. The vast majority of common entries are full, well cited, and accurate (though there are notable exceptions that usually revolve around hot-button issues like religion and politics). People usually go there expecting to find and consume information, not to contribute and participate in the creation of something new.

But in the enterprise, wikis are often not supposed to be ONLY reference libraries and they certainly do not start out that way. Wikis enable asynchronous collaborative content creation. That is, they allow people at different times to all participate in creating a content object - whether it is a project plan, a development MRD, a support FAQ, or a book (to just name a few ideas) The people participating may be a closed and secured group (such as when me and my co-authors created our initial drafts of Reshaping Your Business With Web 2.0), or wide open as in the case of our RFP wiki.

participate2.jpegThe important part is not that your company stand up a wiki, but that it stand up a wiki for a purpose, to solve a particular problem, to accelerate the productivity of a certain audience or group, to collect ongoing information on a particular topic or business problem.

Make sure you have a purpose and then empower your people to contribute as much or as little as they want. If people create only an entry/page title thinking, "Gee, I wish this information were in here..." that is good too. Such an entry might spur creative contribution from others in the company.

Finally it is important that a wiki not be sequestered in a technological vacuum. Make sure the information is available through multiple channels - not just at one web address. Make sure the wiki content, especially for behind-the-firewall only deployments, is a managed asset. That means it's in an ECM system but surfaced, consumed, edited, and interacted with via the Wiki interface. Then you can leverage and reuse that information in a variety of places while enabling the latent participation culture in your organization.

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