Suzanne here, to share some thoughts on information legacy, company culture, and pizza. Here at T324 we recently needed to order pizza for a company meeting, and there was some discussion of whether to go with Solano newcomer Little Star or upper Solano mainstay Zachary’s. I personally contended that Little Star is even more delicious than amazing Zachary’s; as other team members had not yet experienced the wonder that is Little Star, the group was willing to experiment. Long story short, we got Little Star, it was ridiculously good, and several staff members experienced conversion events and became Little Star boosters.
How does this relate to technology? Well, here at T324 we have a company wiki that we actually use. (We had one at my previous tech company job, but we didn’t use it!) This week, store manager Brian Nowell and I needed to arrange a birthday cake for technology consultant Tim Howarth. Brian sent out a company email asking everyone to edit the “Employee Cake and Food Preferences” page of the wiki, and everyone entered their preferences. Now we have a permanent, dynamic storage of what everyone in the office likes to eat and drink- including the global Little Star conversion.
Why do you need a company wiki, other than to prevent birthday-related food allergy or disappointment incidents? Because a huge part of having a successful business is hitting your margins. And for a service business, a big part of hitting your margins is managing information transmission. Because humans are human, you will have employee turnover, and you are going to be training new employees. During turnover and training you want an information legacy transfer that’s clean and accurate, and information retrieval that’s fast and easy. You don’t want to waste dollars reinventing the wheel every time. In Neal Stephenson’s 90’s masterpiece Snow Crash he describes the three-ring binders that franchises use to disseminate their policy, procedures and protocol as a form of virus or DNA. Until recently, this kind of top-down, static information legacy was the best companies could do.
With the advent of lateral, collaborative wiki-based knowledge culture, you can now crowdsource your company’s binder. A wiki gives you a place where anyone in the company can find the answer to the question “how do we do this?”- without disturbing a manager. Everyone can add their experience with a procedure or problem to the company’s knowledge assets. Knowing that the information is available gives staff members agency and prevents critical path blocks. Creating a company wiki is an investment that will pay off quickly; having the company knowledge base at your fingertips makes everything more efficient. And because of the collaborative nature of a wiki, your company wiki becomes a dialogue that runs underneath daily business, keeping staff looped in the same way social media connects a community.
So we suggest you try a wiki for your company- and not just for pizza!