Wikis – An open book.

I love this post by Mary Abraham on how wikis mess with your mind.  It’s absolutely true within an organisational culture.  I’ve experienced it and I too started off with apprehension that was quickly changed to addiction.  At my previous employer wikis took off albeit a little slowly, but nonetheless ahead of most of our competitors.  The success was simply down to sponsorship from the top down.  The benefits were immediate, the knowledge and the talent in the organisation was blown open and collaboration across teams grew organically or so it seemed.

Virtual teams were created in the content and grew over time.  The fact that people contributed through their own interests was culture changing.  We took it a stage further by integrating presence into the wiki with the goal of creating a tacit knowledge base; meaning that you had the ability to communicate in real-time with contributors to extend the collaboration.

I’m now working on creating a similar platform (or repeating the success) with presence everywhere, but the technology part is easy, the challenge now is to introduce the culture of an open book into the organisation where everyone can publish, search, consume and converse.  That sounds very similar to my old boss JP’s vision of Four Pillars.

Well of course, that’s the culture I supported.

Same old problems.

I remember back in the late 1990s I worked on a project for GE to deploy Microsoft Exchange. GE at the time made a corporate decision to deploy a single messaging platform throughout the globe to overcome what they saw as a business communication problem. They used the analogy of a representative from GE Plastics walking past the representative from GE Lighting in the corridors of General Motors or Chrysler not knowing that they were both working for the same company with the same client and not being able to share any information. They believed that working together Plastics and Lighting could benefit the customer as well as GE. The case was compelling and the sponsorship of a single messaging platform came from the top, it had Jack Welch’s buy-in!

Reading Andrew McAfee’s post today I was reminded of this age and it occurred to me that we are still trying to solve this problem but this time the technology is Enterprise 2.0 and the use of Wikis and Blogs in a bid to reduce the use of email.

His students responses, in my view, are right on the button and his dissection of the responses make perfect sense. They mention cases where Wikis and Blogs can improve the collaboration between diverse businesses and teams within many different organisations, they highlight how collaboration and knowledge sharing can improve business processes, but I still can’t help thinking that whilst technology is evolving and we have new problems to solve, we’ve not fixed the problems that existed all those years ago.

Looking at it from another point of view, maybe we are solving the problem, but in stages. Email was the first step, but we are far from finished.