I was having coffee with a lawyer friend the other day who was struggling to improve engagement with a wiki she had set up a few months ago. She thought it was a great wiki, well designed, with plenty of useful content (and as a practising lawyer in the field herself, I’m sure she was right) but it still wasn’t really engaging the other lawyers in the community of practice yet.
Our conversation reminded me what a common issue this is, for which there is no magic solution. This post is for her and draws together some top tips which I hope will help. If you have your own top tips, let me know as I’d love to hear what is working in other law firms.
Use this technology with the right groups – the group needs the right level of trust, technical expertise/enthusiasm, the right culture and you must be able to address their privacy concerns.
Use it for the right purpose – focus on a key problem that needs to be solved, which offers a tangible benefit. Sell the wiki to your lawyers by selling that benefit.
Don’t compromise on ease of use – don’t enforce inflexible page templates, although some guidance may help new users; respond flexibly if the community starts to use the technology in different ways (as long as it furthers your business strategy of course).
Use the right content – integrate with other technologies (RSS feeds, e-mail) as far as possible for maximum population for minimum effort, but make sure it is useful content; keep it useful & trustworthy – when people see the benefits, they will use the technology.
Encourage contributions – encourage junior members of staff to contribute and respond positively to anyone who contributes, don’t just accept their contributions; if possible, try not to have someone who is paid to populate the wiki or blog as fewer people will then bother (“but that is his/her job”); have an ongoing programme of reminders to staff and training about the wiki/blog’s usefulness & how to use it; and use the personal touch – keep language friendly & avoid a “corporate” tone on blogs.
Keep it trustworthy – fix links & typos, make sure content is relevant and quality is good.
Get people comfortable with it – avoid technical language; get people started with something they are comfortable with, this could be a personal page, or a short Q&A/top tips article on a topic they know well; get people to use the wiki regularly, perhaps by including agendas for relevant meetings for people to discuss the meeting beforehand, or, at the very least, to visit once before the meeting.
Let people choose roles that suit them – some may suit the “gardening” i.e. fixing links and typos, adding references and quotations; others may suit a “champion” role – encouraging its use by others.
Once you have one or two successful groups, start to roll the programme out, using the first groups as mentors and champions.
Measure your success
Assume that once you have built it, they will come – these always take time to get off the ground: don’t get disheartened.
Assume that one training session in “how to use it” will be enough – plan a programme of different types of training (group, individual, desk-based, team-based) on an ongoing basis.
Control it too much – the biggest problem you are likely to face is that not enough people contribute and people only contribute their absolute highest quality, not that you have too much or inappropriate material.
Forget to include a private place for people to draft their work – this is how many people, but lawyers in particular, like to work (draft and re-draft) so make sure they have the option to save a draft of their comment or blog post before publishing them.
Think that you are creating or have to create Wikipedia – your wiki doesn’t need to look like Wikipedia or have the same level of open editing if that doesn’t suit your business’s culture or your business’s needs – your wiki was created to meet your business needs, so do whatever suits your business.
Helene Russell is a UK lawyer turned Knowledge professional. After a decade specialising in dispute resolution litigation, particularly clinical negligence, she moved in-house into Knowledge Management within a regional heavyweight firm. She now runs her own consultancy, The Knowledge Business, offering the benefits of KM to smaller firms who can’t afford their own in-house experts. She also runs Knowledge Network West, the networking and knowledge-sharing group for professional services sector in the West.