Using a wiki to run a global company

When I discuss the topic of “wikis,” I often discover that media people — especially business media people — think a “wiki” is something “like Wikipedia” and not, necessarily, what it actually is — a platform for doing a wide variety of collaborative activities in a wide variety of contexts.

However, I just heard the CEO of a business media company here — of one of the biggest business companies in the world — describe a very astute understanding of the platform.

During a session on “the Internalization of Business Media Companies,” (that, sorry, I’m not blogging), David Levin, CEO of United Business Media, said, “”We use an internal wiki to run a global company.”

As described, the United Business Media corporate wiki provides employees to share “best practices” across global and vertical organizations within the company.

“A richness comes out of that,” said Levin. “It’s all self-organizing.”

For example, if a new conference works in one market or one company, the “case” is written up and shared on the wiki.

Levin said there is an “inherent desire” on the part of employees to share with others in company what’s working.

Sounds great, but I’d love to hear one of those employees describe the wiki.

  • Hi, Rex,

    Your wish is my command! I’m UBM’s Wiki Community Manager, so perhaps I don’t count as “one of those employees” if you meant a “typical” employee in David Levin’s company. BTW, David didn’t tell me to comment on this, either — found your post through a Google alert.

    We’re actually running Jive’s Clearspace across our global enterprise, and it’s working quite well. We have a healthy mix of wiki pages (content created or uploaded), discussions (forum-style threaded Q&A) and blogs — all of which are built into and integrated in the tool. It’s really much more than a wiki, but I have just about surrendered the naming battle (IMHO the word “wiki” is going to evolve to include social media tools integrated with wiki technology). The social media aspects of it make it much more compelling and engaging for our teams than a “pure” wiki would be. The photos and user-customizable profiles give it a Facebook feel. And the user-created groups (no permission required or admin help needed) let people self-organize communities of interest on the fly.

    In fact, groups formed by users around topics such as SEO and Web Analytics, for example, have introduced people in far-flung parts of the company to each other. They are sharing ideas, asking questions and comparing notes without anyone in management having set up a thing. Truly self-organizing!

    If anyone’s interested in learning more about our social media cultural evolution, check out the blog we’ve begun (still not much there at the moment, I admit): http://social-media-evolution.blogspot.com/

    Ted Hopton
    UBM Wiki Community Manager

  • For the all the value that Wikipedia has provided humankind, one small disservice it has provided is the notion that wikis are only for creating encyclopedias. Wikis themselves are a broad a tool for collaboration while Wikipedia is just one narrowly focused (albeit extremely successful) application of a wiki. We see a lot of organizations start using Mediawiki, the software that powers Wikipedia, for their corporate wiki but then switch to something more ‘enterprise-friendly’ (with page security, LDAP support, professional support, database support, etc, rich text editing) once the wiki spreads outside of a small group of users.

  • @Ted – I think you deserve a raise.