(e-Sourcing) Wikis are Organic

The recent issue of Backbone, the Canadian Business Technology Lifestyle magazine, had an article titled Building a Wiki Workplace: Unleashing the Power of Human Capital that noted that the nature of work is changing; it is increasingly team-based and collaborative, cutting across the organizational silos and bureaucratic structures of the 20th century corporation. (Echoing the sentiments of Tim Hindle as summarized in The New Organisation, as printed in the Economist last January and discussed in my post Sourcing the New Organization, the fifth installment of last summer’s Purchasing Innovation series.)

It discussed the increasing popularity of wikis and blogs in the corporate world because they help employees work with more people, in more regions of the world, with less hassle and more enjoyment than earlier generations of workplace technology. The result is faster innovation, lower cost structures, greater agility, improved responsiveness to customers, and more authenticity and respect in the marketplace. The primary example provided is that of Best Buy, which continues to crush its competition with plans to open more than 100 new stores when competitors such as Circuit City are closing locations. Best Buy believes store managers and associates know customer habits, wants, and frustrations better than market research statistics and asks general managers to fine-tune the company’s broad-brush thinking for local markets. These general managers then go online to brainstorm and swap experiences and ideas, using collaborative technologies such as wikis.

However, it is the closing paragraph that provides the most insight:
Clear goals, structure, discipline and leadership in the organization will remain as important as ever and perhaps more so as self-organization and peer production emerge as organizing principles for the workplace. The difference today is that these qualities can emerge organically as employees seize the new tools to collaborate across departmental and organizational boundaries.

In other words, the benefits of the wiki will grow and emerge over time, and possibly provide value and insight in a manner you could never have predicted. Just make them available, make them easy to use, encourage their use, and have some patience. Given time employees will develop their own self-organized interconnections and form cross-functional teams capable of interacting as a global, real-time workforce. And, oh yeah, check out the eSourcing Wiki and spread the word.

The article also provides six tips on the implementation of collaborative technologies.

  • Use Pilot Projects to prove benefits
    and start with fact-based efforts
  • Choose a receptive group for the pilot
    such as young people familiar with collaborative technologies
  • Maintain Leadership and Vision
    and find a leader who is passionate but not too controlling
  • Use loose control systems
    and set clear performance goals while encouraging the use of new tools
  • Use innovative techniques to achieve critical mass
    and pre-populate the wiki with baseline useful content
  • Use light incentives
    and focus on creative pleasure, peer recognition of expertise, and visibility