In an recent article for Future Changes, Bill Arconati – Confluence Product Marketing Manager at Atlassian – argues that Enterprise Wikis are much better than contemporary e-mail culture , creating what he calls an opt-in culture:
“In an opt-in culture, employees contribute to conversations where they gain the most satisfaction and have the largest impact. They look beyond their tiny fiefdoms and seek out situations where they can add value and offer their expertise.” – Wikis, “Opt-in Culture” Contribute to a Healthy Organization
Her contrast opt-in culture with its opposite – the opt-out e-mail culture – that completely dominates the business world:
Perhaps the best way to understand and appreciate an opt-in culture is by contrasting it to an opt-OUT culture like email. Have you ever left work at the end of the day and thought to yourself, “All I did today was respond to emails?” In email-based companies you frequently spend your days knocking down emails like a bad game of Whac-A-Mole.
The main problem with email is that you have little control over what lands in your inbox. Most emails are either (i) people asking you to do something or (ii) conversations between two or three people (frequently executives) with a dozen innocent bystanders in the cc line. The only way to shut out the noise in an email culture is to opt-out and say “Take me off this thread!”
Even if you successfully filter out mail you don’t want, there’s little you can do about the email you’re NOT receiving. Important management decisions are made every day on your corporate email server without the input of your company’s most interested and qualified employees. For example, I’m in marketing but I’ve worked in product development and corporate finance in past roles. I’d like to think I have something to offer to conversations about product development and financial analysis even though they’re technically outside of my designated role. But in an email culture, I wouldn’t be cc’d on those emails and hence not part of the conversation simply because I’m a marketing guy. Much of the knowledge and experience that I bring to the organization would be completely wasted in an email-based culture.
He is right, there is terrible waste in the fire-and-forget e-mail culture, with massive numbers of hours lost to simply cheking that mails can be safely discarded.
Bill ends by explaining how to use wiki’s to develop an opt-in culture:
- Communities of interest – deploy a wiki that lets you create a separate space for every area of interest.
- Comments and Discussions – deploy a wiki where conversations can naturally evolve out of content.
- Subscriptions – deploy a wiki where users can opt-in to conversations happening in the wiki either by subscribing via email or via RSS. With email and RSS notifications, users can actually monitor and participate in conversations happening all across the company.
- Openness – Consider a wiki where openness is the default.