The wikis are coming! The wikis are coming!!

I got this link from a post by RaySims on the Learning2006 wiki.  It details the [viral] rise of wiki use in a couple of different companies.  A couple of things that struck a chord from the article…

1) it is the “tech-savvy entry-level employees of so-called Generation Y” that are driving the adoption of the technology.  Maybe my earlier post about the learning/adoption curve is unfounded.  Remeber when computers first starting appearing on a large scale in the business environment?  I remember a movie – someone help me out here – where there was a rebellious male gymnast and he came from a lower-middle income family and he had all these demons he struggled with and had a strained relationship with his father – in part because his dad was loosing his job because he didn’t have “computer skills” (although I can’t remember exactly how the situation was described in the movie) and everything was “BAD”.  Then the kid pulls it together and starts training hard.   <cue inspirational music>  During the “workin’ hard now” montage of him working out in some dusty barn or something there are cut scenes of other aspects of his life where things are coming together.  In one of the scenes his dad is sitting in front of a huuggggee  computer (the shot is from behind the machine, but I can just imagine the green cursor blinking) and he’s got a manual open in one hand and is search-and-destroy typing with the other one and has a look of Iron Determination on his face.  And, of course, everything becomes “GOOD”.  Concerning this “cultural” change,

“People are interested in the idea, but not everyone wants anyone to read their content or change their content,” [Novell employee Lee] Romero said. “It involves a mind-set and culture change. But once people start using it, their mind-set changes. They come to realize we can all be trusted.” 

I can understand, I’m a little intimidated by it myself.  But is the application of Web 2.0 to the workplace any different than the initial introduction of computers themselves 20+ years ago?  Are we going to start hearing people complaining that now that they’ve figured out how to program the VCR they need their 10 year old to post to the company’s intranet for them? Maybe we should start training sessions with “…you’ve become [or ‘will become’ for GenY’ers] your parents…”

2) Concerning the “security” issues that I invariably hear as part of this discussion…

“We don’t have a wiki police group,” Redshaw said. “We just think it’s the way the business runs. All a business is, is human beings talking to each other, trying to get stuff done.”

Exactly!  I know that I join others (Brent Schlenker in particular) when I say “if you want people to work [or learn] more effectively, get out of their way.”  In addition to our natural resistance to learn new things unless prompted, I wonder if part of the hesitancy of adoption is based on our fear of losing “control” which has traditionally been our “value”.  Don’t get me wrong, I recognize the need for proper safeguarding of sensitive information – I’ve been personally burned in that space before – but I think we need to recognize that it is also possible that we are playing the control/security card out of professional (and personal?) insecurity as much as our altruistic feelings for our employer.  Bottom line you’ve got to, uh, trust the people you work with.  Imagine that. 

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4 Responses to “The wikis are coming! The wikis are coming!!”


  1. 1 nkilkenny November 30, 2006 at 9:01 am

    Excellent points, Paul. Yes, Imagine that… trusting the people you work with. Sometimes I think that it’s the structure we work in (in all or most job environments) the rules and assumptions that help generate mistrust.

  2. 2 pfender November 30, 2006 at 10:27 am

    Exactly! People have seen, in their own lives (since the beginning of ‘civilization’, really) that knowledge – or the control of information and therefore knowledge – equals power. And while that is true, it really acts as a barrier to the collaboration and interpersonal dynamics that have emerged with the value of the “knowledge worker”.

    Part of what is so exciting IMHO about the emergence of Web 2.0 and Learning 2.0 (or whatever handy term you want to use) is that it represents an entirely new dynamic in the way people obtain, and even generate, knowledge. I’m really beginning to feel that the “battle” for the acceptance of wikis, in work [corporate] environments in particular, is just a symptom of the deeper issue of control/power.

    While the possibilites are very exciting, the real world is such that there are still some major obstacles to overcome and they are, at this point, way more philosophical than technical.

  3. 3 nkilkenny December 1, 2006 at 7:58 pm

    The obstacles are often ‘political’ too. Also much of the resistance can also come from age-old fear of change. In the case of wikis, I suspect that there are a great many ‘control’ obsessed people who worry about accuracy and accountability. Within the working world, if we admit that wiki content is still it’s informal form… and in a sort of chrysallis stage before it becomes a formal document or training piece then it’s easier to let go of that need for control.

  4. 4 pfender December 4, 2006 at 1:49 pm

    Agreed. Maybe that’s part of our role as “the training people” is to help organizations see that wikis are just one more tool to add to the training tool box we can provide for learners and they have a role that functions in addtion to what we’re already supporting…


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