Wikipedia rules the Internet. It’s a more popular information source than CNN and Yahoo News and, with more than three million articles, its pages appear in top-ten search results well over 90% of the time (some reports put the figure as high as 97%). Not bad for a website that’s existed for a mere eight years.
Sure, you think, Wikipedia’s “anyone can edit” philosophy is cool, but it’s hardly reliable. Think again. Even back in 2005, when Wikipedia was just a bratty toddler, the scientific journal Nature found it to be as reliable as the Encyclopedia Britannica, an old standby dating back to 1768. It comes down to what author James Surowiecki calls “the wisdom of crowds”: Information aggregated in groups is more accurate than that provided by any one individual, even an expert. Amassing wisdom in this manner is sometimes referred to as “crowdsourcing,” and Wikipedia has some serious lessons to teach businesses about its power.
Consider for a moment the wisdom of your company. Where does it come from? And where does it live? If your company is like most, its wisdom is born out of countless email threads, conference calls, instant messages, and group meetings. And it lives, piecemeal, buried in the cluttered inboxes—and minds—of your employees. It takes only one knowledgeable employee leaving your company (without providing a “brain dump” to his or her replacement) for you to realize the immeasurable value of that wisdom.
Now consider what your company would look like if its wisdom lived in a wiki, continuously updated and refined by multiple employees. Or if your product’s wiki were updated by the product managers and clients who interact with the product every day. Requests for information would no longer come by email, phone, or IM, but rather via the wiki, and responses to those requests would be posted back to the wiki. Over time—and as Wikipedia has taught us, we’re talking about the relative short term—the wisdom of your “crowd” would create a centralized repository of knowledge and information whose value far exceeds that of any one individual.
Yes, even you.
USA Today. McPaper. The newspaper with the cutesy graphics and not much copy. The one you trip over when you leave your hotel room, and the one you take from the flight attendant when they’ve run out of the Times or the Journal. USA Today gets no respect. Agreed, it’s nowhere near as satisfying a […]
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