Employee performance depends on many things, beginning with skill and knowledge, but it also requires support in the moment. “In the moment” can mean help from a co-worker or a coach, it can mean guidance from a job aid, and it can also mean support from a reference, a video, or documentation.
While most of those forms of assistance may be off-the-shelf items, teams (including virtual teams) can also develop and maintain their own knowledge bases using a format called a “wiki”. This may be a new term to many in the L&D community, so this article will outline what a wiki is, and how to create one.
All you need to know about wikis
A wiki is a collaborative knowledge base. According to Wikipedia (which is itself a collection of many wikis), “A wiki (WIK-ee) is a hypertext publication collaboratively edited and managed by its own audience directly using a web browser.” The word itself is Hawaiian and means “quick”. There are hundreds of thousands of wikis in use as knowledge management resources, notetaking tools, community websites, and intranets. Invented by Ward Cunningham as a tool for software developers, wikis do not require programming, although there are “wiki engines” and other software that can help in their creation.
The most important things to know about the wiki format (in my opinion) are in these two sentences from Ward Cunningham: ”A wiki is not a carefully crafted site created by experts and professional writers and designed for casual visitors. Instead, it seeks to involve the typical visitor/user in an ongoing process of creation and collaboration that constantly changes the website landscape.” In other words, a wiki is an ongoing DIY project built by a team. Any user can change anything in the wiki, add to it, or remove information from it. There will be designated editors for a wiki, but that does not change the fundamental nature of the site.
Rather than read a lot about what a wiki is, let’s look at how to build one.
Building a wiki
The first step is to choose some software. Once you have chosen the software (which will not involve much effort to install), you and your teammates can begin to add and edit content. Here are some options to consider.
Your organization may already be using a software application called Notion for a variety of purposes including task management, planning, and in other roles ranging from reference to onboarding. Notion is cross-platform so it runs on the web, mobile devices, Mac, and Windows. Notion has built-in templates for wikis, and there is an incredible amount of support online for Notion. I recommend opening the Engineering Wiki included in Notion since it walks you through the wiki setup steps. Identify an area in which a knowledge base or a troubleshooting guide or an operating instruction would be valuable, and start building your wiki. It is just that simple.
If your organization is already using a web-hosting provider, find out whether there is support for any wiki software. You can also install other wiki software manually if you have a dedicated web server or virtual private server. Here are some alternatives to consider:
- Tiki Wiki (Open Source CMS Groupware)
- Helpie Wiki (WordPress plug-in)