Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Wikis in the workplace

This week I read a very interesting article in Newsweek that I wanted to draw your attention to.
Here is a summary of the full article for you:
The United Nations, notorious for endless deliberations, is trying a technological quick fix. Its Global Compact Office, which promotes corporate responsibility, has embraced the wiki in hopes that it will help staff in 80 countries share information and reach consensus with less deliberation and more speed.

It is debatable whether encouraging public input is a good way to increase efficiency, but the move is the latest example of a quickly growing trend. Wiki software—easy-to-use programs that let anyone with Internet access create, remove and edit content on a Web page—first gained popularity thanks to Wikipedia, the user-generated encyclopedia that has come to be hailed as one of the Web's greatest resources. Now the technology is increasingly spreading outside the world of tech geeks and into the mainstream, being adopted by workplaces, corporations and even governments. In what's been dubbed the "wiki workplace," a growing number of organizations have begun shifting from traditional hierarchical structures to self-organized and collaborative networks, using wiki software—a basket of technologies that include wikis, blogs and other tools—to foster innovation across organizational and geographic boundaries.
Executives say the new tools make it easier for teams to collaborate and share information, and to get projects up and running on the fly. "Collaborative software has become a very important part of how businesses will invent and innovate," says Ken Bisconti, IBM's vice president of messaging and collaboration software. IBM has used internal wikis since 2005, with an eye to selling the concept to its clients. IBM has incorporated the wiki and other collaborative software into its corporate products like Lotus Notes, a desktop software for accessing e-mail and other applications. Its most advanced tool, the Quickr 8, combines blogs, wikis and plug-ins called "connectors" to link a range of business documents and libraries. Meanwhile, governments and
NGOs are, like the United Nations, experimenting with using the wiki concept to collaborate within—even involve constituents in policymaking. Sixteen U.S. intelligence agencies have begun using a common wiki called Intellipedia, a government-run—and top-secret—information-sharing source that allows them to merge research and intelligence gathering. And the nonpartisan WikiCongress—a user-generated Capitol Hill founded by former U.S. congressional staffers—lets the public vote on bills, create petitions and propose new policy, and then forwards the results to legislators.
"Wikinomics" coauthor Don Tapscott says wikis have the potential to spawn new models for international problem solving and dialogue, increase transparency in government and open communication between citizens and policymakers. Consider Habitat Jam, an open conversation that was hosted recently by the nonprofit Globe Foundation in preparation for the third session of the World Urban Forum, a gathering of leaders to discuss the impact of global urbanization.
See the full article for more details.

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