Wikis have received a lot of bad ink over the years. Few trust them since they can be updated by any- and everyone. But this forgotten Web2.0 tool has a lot to offer, especially when published within a company intranet. As with anything else, they have both beneficial qualities and pain points, yet when used for a data curating tool, wikis can in fact be invaluable for businesses. Before this can be fully appreciated, however, we must first understand the difference between two different types of knowledge; intrinsic and extrinsic.
Intrinsic Information – Intrinsic knowledge is that germane to the firm, the policies and procedures that are already in place. This may include operational instructions, say, for a piece of manufacturing equipment for example, or methods by which external communications are carried out. Intrinsic information is already documented and readily available for all associates and personnel. Having an up-to-date policy and procedure manual establishes guidelines for management, and allows all stakeholders to understand rules governing firm processes and functions.
Extrinsic Information – Extrinsic understandings can be a bit more elusive, since they are often not the domain of the company, but rather exist as developed knowledge gleaned by those intimately involved with tasks carried out on a consistent basis during day-to-day maneuvers. Extrinsic information consists of those undocumented techniques sometimes referred to as “tricks of the trade.” Such practices are established by those on the front lines, e.g. machine operators that have learned shortcuts to efficiency in the process of accomplishing duties required in the normal progression of carrying out assignments described in job descriptions. Such knowledge is volatile, and may be inaccessible to remaining workers after an associate has moved on from the appointment.
Where Wikis Win – Extrinsic information can be invaluable to the firm, particularly when techniques that save the company time, money or other resources. This is where wikis can really shine through – by incorporating these developed skills into standard operating procedures new personnel can take advantage of already established efficiencies without having to reinvent the wheel.
It goes without saying, however, that not all such characteristics will be beneficial. Therefore it is incumbent upon management to actively review the wiki on an ongoing basis so that the best ideas are filtered out and sent on for review, possibly for inclusion into the established policy and procedure mandates.
Some Ground Rules – First and foremost, buy-in is required by all involved stakeholders. This is chiefly imperative at the executive level, for without top-level support the project is doomed to failure from the very beginning. Getting the idea for the mission supported by at least one influential associate in the C-suite will be a necessary initial move.
Consistency is key; once the ball is rolling, the wiki should be kept active. This may require encouragement of select participants from those overseeing the strategy. Contributions from a large constituency of firm employees will be helpful in this respect; whom, after all, is without suggestions about how to make their particular job a little better and more proficient?
Wikis have yet to rise to the same levels of popularity of social media, folksonomy or many other Web 2.0 artifices. Yet they have a great deal to offer, and can benefit in ways that are cost-effective and economical while at the same time provide methods and means that save labor and time.
Do you have other ideas about how wikis may offer assistance, or even arguments against them? Please join the conversation by adding your thoughts in the comments below. And thanks for stopping by Grannelle!