Numerous blogs, industry and academic literature reflect the considerable correlation between the concepts related to the adoption of innovations, development of a ‘learning organisation’ and successful management of wikis in business, including:
- development of a receptive culture and managerial support;
- role of leaders in promoting interaction, dialogue and feedback;
- top-down and bottom-up approaches to learning and management;
- widely shared vision for what is required, and the teamwork, adaptiveness and creativity necessary to advance that vision.
A little while back there was an interesting debate which sparked considerable comment about the ability of social software/Web 2.0 to effect organisational change. In other words, whether Web 2.0 technologies can act as more than a mere technology enabler for wider information dissemination/communication in organisations and their use/management stimulate organisational learning practices and culture change.
One school thought maintains that Web 2.0 (including wikis, blogs, bookmark managers and network/micro-blogging services) will not address or substantially change the barriers that prevent organisational learning e.g. free flow of knowledge, lack of trust, missing incentives, power differentials, unsupportive cultures and the general busyness of employees (Davenport) . The other school (including McAfee, Suarez and Hinchcliffe) recognises that technology by itself won’t resolve the dilemma, but view the increasing use of Web 2.0 as a catalyst for change.
Proponents of the latter view consider Web 2.0 to be a radical departure from previous generations of collaboration/knowledge management tools, since they are easy to learn, deploy and use, giving people the ability to self-organise and collaborate in ways which best suit their needs. They consider that well-executed wiki adoption and management, couples with a growing need for businesses to focus on supporting innovation/collaboration, will encourage organisational learning.
That debate fed a second string to my research, i.e. the extent to which use/management of wikis may contribute to improved organisational communication and collaboration making them potentially useful tools for encouraging practices associated with the ‘learning organisation’. It also highlights the twin-edged nature of the problem, since using a wiki effectively in the workplace may itself depend on the extent to which the organisation is able to cope with complexity/change, learn and continuously improve.
Consequently, since the clear message is that implementing wikis (and any Web 2.0 technology) is as much about understanding organisational culture, learning, collaboration practices and human behaviour as it is about the technology itself, I also investigated:
- how themes of the ‘learning organisation’ can aid and be reflected in the management of wikis in business; and
- the extent to which such management can in turn encourage organisational learning and foster collaborative behaviour.