How did we ever settle arguments before wikipedia and google let us prove we’re right in a few taps on a keyboard? And yes, I may be overly concerned about proving I was right, but wikipedia proves it, John Wayne did star in over a 100 movies. Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge for many of us, is a well-known example of a wiki, a website that anyone can edit.
It’s worth a closer look at wikipedia as it shows us how something that seems to create a recipe for chaos is able to work. Basically we have 100,000 active contributors, a span of 23 million articles (4 million in english) and 35,000,000 users, all being run by 140 employees. Surprisingly, a 2005 study showed Encyclopedia Brittanica had an error rate of 2.92 mistakes per article, while Wikipedia had an average 3.86, which many consider to be a respectable comparison for a service run on so little money. Wikipedia is able provide a high-level of accuracy through formal editorial controls that uses a large number of editors to oversee the contributions of a much larger number of writers.
The principles and factors that make wikipedia a useful resource can be applied within an organisation for the purpose of learning and education. Let’s take a look at the why, what and how.
- Employee Engagement –Learning contributes to greater employee engagement and social learning is an enabler of some of the drivers of engagement: opportunities to learn, reward & recognition, relationships with peers,and self-directed behavior.
- Putting effort into the right place – Social learning is an enabler for HR departments and training professionals in organisations taking a 70:20:10 approach to learning and development, with it’s focus on learning through experience, learning through others, and the decreased focus on formal education.
- Not all employees work in the same location – Wikis allow content to be created and consumed in an asynchronous and distributed manner; this is key in organisations that are working with their own employees and people within partner organisations who are distributed across cities, countries and timezones.
Wiki’s are made up of user generated content from many different contributors: enterprise wikis such as Confluence which provides greater control with an audit trail of changes by authenticated users. An enterprise wiki might be used for different purposes to achieve learning and education objectives:
- Collaborative creation of content that is delivered through formal training classes and workshops
- Communities of practice to expand knowledge within an area of specialisation, such as recruitment practices for HR advisors or the recruitment process used by leaders
- Knowledgebase of articles that meet the needs of HR stakeholders through allowing anyone to add and contribute to topics
- Getting started – Provide time and coaching for employees to get used to the concepts and etiquette behind collaborative content creation.
- Encourage participation – Provide management support and direction, for example, refusing to read emails related to a topic being discussed on the wiki.
- Provide guidance – Publish the principles of collaboration to provide guidance for user behaviour, this may be similar to Wikipedia’s five pillars.
These are a few ways that wikis could be used to support learning and education objects, and a few suggestions on how this could happen. Can you suggest some more?
Some more reading on wikis for HR departments: