Thursday, June 22, 2006

Wiki in the Museum Workplace

Richard Florida points out in "The Rise of the Creative Class" one of the most powerful opportunities in the creative economy is the reduction of boundaries, hierarchy and the increase of diversity in the work place. This applies equally to the corporate and nonprofit world.

There is perhaps no better technical realization of Florida's creative class ideas than the Wiki. The Wiki paradigm is a prime example of broadening and diversifying the creative voice and stake of employees in the nonprofit workplace. It comes in many flavors, programming languages, implementations, and architectures. In the end, the Wiki is the same; it is a democratic platform for information sharing, editing and contributing. It is a paradigm shift (both technically and editorially) for most organizations and one that many are curious and anxious to test.

Strangely, this revolution has lent itself to the most extreme applications and thinking. When considering Wiki, organizational dialogue has trended towards placing a Wiki on outer-facing contact points such as Wiki external relations or community building. It seems that even before a robust online community has been built for organizations, a Wiki is thrown up as a marketing device and interaction tool. This does a disservice to both the community and the technology. Rushing the Wiki to production seems a tad hasty - especially given that even Wikipedia has shifted to a managed editorial review process. Perhaps it is time to pause and reconsider the Wiki just a bit...

The genesis of the Wiki was a technical implementation for sharing code and best practices amongst computer programmers. On internal, specific projects, a Wiki is a great tool for building towards common goals and sharing knowledge. For good reason, this tool has grown within the technology community and gained many proponents. However, this acceptance and distribution process took time and involved a long lifecycle of technology need, innovation, learning and acceptance amongst the community.

If you love Wiki, can't get enough of it, I would suggest starting simple and getting back to basics. It might be better to introduce the Wiki paradigm internally first to test your own political, administrative and technical waters. This makes sense and is entirely in-line with the initial applications of the Wiki principle. Perhaps implement a Wiki-style intranet page of staff comments and suggestions. If successful, other services and applications will follow; dynamic FAQ's, a collaborative customer service knowledge base for front-line service employees or even an executive Wiki to hash out strategic direction. In all these suggestions, there is a growing of the Wiki power to foster collaboration.

In the end, Wiki is more than a coding and collaboration platform and must be understood astransformationive perspective, one that can improve management, productivity, employee buy-in and ultimately service. But, the milestones for integrating and achieving this transformation should be measured. A Wiki, like any technology is neither a panacea nor a downfall; it is a tool that users must need, grow to appreciate and understand before it is, ultimately, relied upon.

The revolution may be here, but it will take time for everyone to appreciate it.

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