My regular readers know that I post from time to time about how wikis can enable organization performance and increase organizational clarity.  (For example see here, here and here.)

In the interests of full disclosure, my company is centered around a semantic wiki platform (currently optimized for IT groups – see Symcordia.com for more) so I do have a few axes to grind.  But I’m also a true believer in wikis as an enabler of collaboration and performance improvement. This is based upon my experience as a consultant and our client’s experiences using  semantic wikis.  Symcordia™ is built on an underlying Confluence wiki engine, with a variety of plug-ins that add semantic properties, sortable tables, page ratings and so on.

From IT Leadership to a Rock and Roll Band!

I’ve also posted before on lessons from the performing arts – see here.  Now, I’m adding to my business and consulting experience through my ‘non-day job’ as a member of a rock and roll band.  We are using Symcordia to enable our development and learning – both for the band (organizational learning) and its members (individual learning).

The Importance of Passion as an Ingredient for Collaboration

I was excited to get into this as it combined two of my greatest passions – wiki-enablement of growth and learning, and playing rock and roll!  In the words of the band Cheap Trick – this feels like Heaven Tonight!  (My business partner, Roy Youngman, created an excellent post on the importance of passion to collaboration.)

As you read this, think about interest groups you might be part of at work – a special project team, a six sigma team or whatever.  How could you use a wiki to enable development and learning to increase their effectiveness and ignite some passion for their work?

Here’s the Back Story

Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention.  We started the band – a conglomeration of 4 very passionate musicians – as a vehicle to cover classic rock songs.  Over the first week or so, we found ourselves trading emails, mostly with lists of songs to cover, styles and genres to try, suggestions for band names, and potential dates to meet for practice sessions.

Having spent several years of my career successfully using wikis as a way to escape from endless email streams and knowledge lost in Windows folders, I found this both inefficient and frustrating.  I tried to keep track of all the suggestions, consolidate them and publish them as “the list” of stuff we’d work on, but it was all but impossible to do.  The list kept changing – both in content and purpose (some of the song ideas were aspirational, some were deadly serious, some were deliberately frivolous).

I had this nightmare vision of us turning up for our first practice, with no collective idea of what we were working on – we’d each prepared a different set of parts for a different set of songs!  Each band member is more or less multi-instrumental, but when 4 band members have each prepared the same lead guitar part, and nobody has worked up the bass part, keyboard part, etc., there’s a train wreck in the making!

I believed there was a better way, so I quickly (initially about 3 hours work) built a band wiki using my company’s Symcordia™ platform and got the band members onto it.

Why a Wiki for a Band?

A band has several characteristics that make a wiki a great enabler:

  1. Playing in a band is a highly collaborative endeavor.  Wikis are inherently collaboration tools.
  2. Playing in a band demands shared knowledge:  What are we going to play?  Which key should we play it in?  Who will take which parts (e.g., lead vocal, harmony vocal)?  Wikis are a fabulous way of capturing and sharing knowledge.
  3. A band must develop and grow – or it dies on the vine.  Wikis are wonderful enablers of individual and collective growth and learning – they can put at your fingertips all that you need in terms of knowledge and tools to develop and grow – things like musical scores, YouTube tutorials, song lyrics.
  4. For a developing band, history and shared experience is crucial to learning: What did we try and why?  What worked well – and not so well?  A wiki is an ideal vehicle for capturing history and creating shared learning.
  5. A band depends on all sorts of creative decisions:  What’s the best sequence of songs for a given context?  Which settings worked best for amplifiers, mixing boards and effects pedals?  A wiki is a great way of enabling and capturing those decisions and the logic behind them – one place to keep a ‘single version of the truth.’

Please join me for Part 2 of this post in the next week or so – I’ll cover the basic design for the wiki, screen shots of how we are using it – especially, how we are leveraging the semantic properties, and our early experiences.

Graphic courtesy of Cox Mpoperi Wilson Education Consultants

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