26 Sep 2006

A Bunch of Deers Caught in the Headlights

... from the searchCIO.com newsletter:

Web 2.0: Breaking down barriers

[Jeff Kelly, Associate Editor]

When associate professor Andrew McAfee demonstrated the new departmental wiki to his Harvard Business School colleagues, he didn't exactly get the reaction he was expecting. "All of these leading scholars in their fields looked like a bunch of deers caught in the headlights," he said.

It turns out that the main factors preventing wikis, blogs and other Web 2.0 technologies from breaching the corporate firewall aren't technological, but cultural.

In fact, the technology itself is relatively simple. And the benefits can be enormous. But getting companies and employees to use corporate blogs and wikis in the first place is the trick, McAfee said, speaking at Interop in New York last week.

For starters, many executives and managers are reluctant to provide their employees with open forums of communication, fearing workers might use them to rant and rave or otherwise stir up unrest among the corporate masses, McAfee said.

Another challenge is simply getting workers to regularly post to corporate wikis and blogs. Wikipedia, the most successful wiki of them all, has thousands and thousands of readers, McAfee noted, but only a small core of dedicated users actually post content on a regular basis.

Transfer that dynamic to an enterprise setting, let alone to an SMB, and you'll likely end up with corporate blogs and wikis dominated by only a few employees, usually the tech savvy of the group.

Why? McAfee said some workers are reluctant to share their thoughts with colleagues for fear of looking ignorant, others don't want to give coworkers the chance to steal their ideas, and some, like McAfee's HBS colleagues, simply don't know how to use the technology or are just plain intimidated by it.

All this has me wondering if blogs and wikis will ever really break into the corporate IT mainstream?

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