E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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APQC KM & Innovation 2007 – “The Promise of Passion of Collective Wisdom … Through Wikis and the wiki Way” by Ann Majchrzak

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And so we carry on with more reviews from the different sessions I attended at the APQC KM & Innovation event in Houston back in May. And this time around attending one of the sessions, that I was surely looking forward to, and which would resonate quite a bit with you folks, since I have been talking about the same subject a few times over here already. Oh, and with perfect timing while the Enterprise 2.0 conference is taking place in Boston, which, by the way, I am hoping you are all catching up with as some of the conversations are incredibly exciting.

Yes, that is right! Ann Majchrzak‘s session was one of the very few that touched on the subject of social computing within the corporate world and how different businesses are making extensive use of it. In particular, this time around, of wikis. I was actually surprised about how there weren’t many sessions around the impact of social software within the enterprise, so this particular elective session from Ann was very much appreciated and refreshing!

I wish I were able to share the slide deck online. My comments in here are not going to make it much justice so I am hoping that at some point I may be able to bump into them and share them over here. But in her presentation Ann put together some really nice, brief and straight forward background as to what wikis are, how they operate and how different organisations are starting making heavy use of them. Yes, one of the reasons why I really enjoyed Ann’s pitch was the fact that she was using concrete real examples of how businesses are already making use of wikis in order to help boost their knowledge sharing and collaboration efforts for a wide range of different tasks: company intranet; distributed meeting coordination, project management and documentation, recruiting process management, competition tracking, bug tracking (Help Desk), CRM, etc. etc.

Really nice and an eye opener for those folks out there who may still be skeptic. But not to worry, it got better! Indeed, during the course of the session she actually shared some really good tips on how to get different wikis off to a great start! Here are some of the highlights she went through:

"– Start small with seeds
– Let anyone in
– Don’t duplicate content; point to shared content instead
– Don’t just add ideas, build on others
– Don’t just ask questions and criticise; build and evolve
– Revel in diversity of openness

Multi-user, evolutionary, error-correcting, knowledge integrating, idea-stretching"

From there onwards Ann mentioned a number of different reasons as to why wikis may just well be *that* quasi-perfect collaborative and knowledge sharing tool that you may have been looking for:

"* Coordination across time zones (vs. chat)
* Service entire enterprise of collaborators (vs. groupware)
* Encourage diverse knowledge sources (vs. portals)
* Allow lurkers (i.e. non-contributing readers) from anywhere
* Hi knowledge organisation and maintenance (vs. discussion forums)"

After showing those different reasons with some really good and crystal clear explanations we were off to check out through the different slides a good number of companies who are already using wikis both inside and outside of the firewall in order to encourage that non-hierarchical and democratic collaboration across the board. Quite interesting to see how a good bunch of these companies are already heavily involved with adopting wikis, and a clear sign that there is no way back. Almost everyone out there is testing the tools and see if they would meet their requirements and needs. And the good thing is that most businesses out there are trying them out to see if they would be able to help out improve the current knowledge sharing and collaboration tools suite as opposed to replace it, which is something that I have been saying myself for a while:

No need to kill the current collaborative tools suite in place, rather, much much better, augment it with what is coming up in the social software space!

Finally, after detailing some differences between the Shapers and the Adders and a brief description of  how they each contribute and regard a particular wiki she came to the following conclusion, which, I think, was right spot on!:

"We are just beginning to explore and exploit collaborative knowledge exchange, knowledge relationships, and the arising meta-knowledge"

Thus, who said that wikis didn’t have a chance within the corporate world? Who said that wikis are just fun tools with no further business value for the enterprise? Well, this is one of those presentations that will certainly prove otherwise, and, like I said, this weblog post does not make it any justice from the great stuff that Ann shared with us. At a later time in the conference, I had the chance to talk to her at the cocktail reception and the conversation on wikis, mashups and social computing was certainly one of the highlights of the event for me. Incredibly re-energising and very enlightening and educational. If you ever get a chance to listen to her, by all means, do! She has got a few things to say in this space, for sure!

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