How Wikis Transform Learning


A wiki is an open-source application that allows any user to submit and edit content.  The most popular and famous wiki to date is Wikipedia, an open-source web-based encyclopedia written entirely by volunteer contributors.  Wikipedia has grown rapidly to become the largest reference work ever published in the history of mankind.

The popularity of wikis has not gone unnoticed by the business community.  Companies are beginning to recognize the transformative nature of wikis and are using them to share knowledge and enhance collaboration in all kinds of disciplines.   BearingPoint is using a wiki as a Talent Management Tool.  P&G is using wikis to foster collaboration among its work-groups.  Many other companies are putting wikis to work.

A recent survey by the Massie Center polling over 1,000 learning professionals revealed that wikis and blogs are used more often (at 47% and 45% of the time) than Learning Management Systems (at 42% of the time).

It’s only a matter of time until the LMS is gone, completely replaced by wikis and other collaboration tools.  At RealTime Performance we’re collaborating with our clients to build a next generation learning tool we call Leadershipedia, a wiki connecting employees to knowledge, information, ideas, people and learning activities.

To understand why the LMS is a dinosaur, see the recently published McKinsey Quarterly article on the “Six Ways to Make Web 2.0 Work.”  Based on their research, for a wiki to truly grow and thrive it must, among other things, be in the workflow.   “What’s in the workflow is what gets used.”  The report cites Google and Pixar as companies that have successfully incorporated wikis into the production workflow of their products, thereby ensuring wide acceptance.

A major defect of the LMS has always been that it stands removed from the workflow.  One of the central ideas behind Leadershipedia, and all wikis, is that they deliver information at the point-of-need.

Imagine you are a new manager preparing for your first performance review coming up in 2 hours.  You suddenly feel a great urgency to learn more about how to conduct a successful performance review.  What most people want at this point is quick access to a list of best practices, a few examples of what to do and what not to do, and perhaps a brief coaching session from their boss or an expert at conducting performance reviews using their company’s process.  Leadershipedia, and other wikis, can offer this kind of on-demand guidance and learning.  We call this learning at the point-of-need.  What a typical LMS offers, more often than not, is a 2 hour e-learning PowerPoint presentation written by someone who knows nothing about your company culture.

Furthermore, if the same manager finds a new resource or suggestions to be helpful, they simply update Leadershipedia.   Now Leadershipedia has become more valuable to the next person…and so on…and so on.

How are you using wikis for learning and leadership development?

1 comment

  • I agree with Sean’s general premise that Wiki’s will replace Learning Management Systems, but also believe that there will always need to be some central organizing provider of the majority of the content. I propose that the same busy overworked manager who has just found what they needed on the Leadershipedia Wiki is often not likely to take the additional time to add new content.

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