The wiki is a wonderful thing. At its best, a wiki can facilitate rich description, innovative creations, and insightful analysis. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and it’s democratic.
So, why am I having such a hard time getting people to participate in a wiki environment? The first time I used a wiki in a business analysis setting, I published the results of a workshop I conducted to our corporate wiki. The workshop was adjourned with a spirited commitment to continue collaborating. I had unanimous support for the project–everyone was in complete agreement that the process has problems, and we all (more or less) agreed what those problems were.
So I posted an outline of the results of the workshop and asked the Subject Matter Experts to fill in the blanks. I need their expertise to describe the points in greater detail. No one responded. I sent out several emails pestering the group to take a look at the document. Some looked at it. Others didn’t. No one added a word to it. Why? I have some theories:
- I didn’t offer them motivation to participate. I just asked nicely. They didn’t know where I was going with this.
- They had never used a wiki before, and they were unsure as to what the environment was all about.
- Those that did understand the wiki concept didn’t feel comfortable in the wiki enviroment. Most people are comfortable with "Email Collaboration–" the kind of collaboration where you send a document out to 10 people and receive 7 or 8 or 9 emails back with comments. People are comfortable with that, because they can respond privately without sharing their comments with the group. The wiki isn’t so safe.
I have taken my first wiki experience and my newfound Theory of Wiki Reticence to heart, and I have tried again. This time I have done some things a bit differently.
- I have offered my co-collaborators more from the start. Instead of just publishing an outline, I wrote a complete first draft of my analysis.
- I stayed away from the word "wiki." Hopefully the people with wiki aversions won’t be turned off.
- I have peppered questions throughout the document. My hope is that the added direction will help the team focus and not feel overwhelmed. (Some call this a Content Alert.)
- I have moved from the Confluence Wiki Platform to a SharePoint 2007 wiki platform. Although I like using Confluence and it’s feature-rich platform, the beginning user gets overwhelmed. It’s a new interface for most, and the average business user gets turned off when they have to learn yet another piece of software. SharePoint 2007 wiki, on the other hand, is as vanilla as you can get. It has one option–"edit." Totally simple and there is almost no learning curve.
So far, I have seen a couple people getting their hands dirty on this new wiki, but I’d like to see more. Some things I plan on doing this week to get more participation include:
- Doing a better sales job. I need to make sure that everyone understands the benefit to participating. In this case the point of the wiki is to understand the current process so we can present a cogent argument for change.
- Send out kudos for those who have submitted their ideas to the wiki. Hopefully, the positive reinforcement will help motivate others to participate.
The website, WikiPatterns.com has been a great resource. The site describes ways to increase adoption of wikis. Does anyone have other ideas regarding ways to get more people involved in documenting current processes using a wiki?