Leading business thinkers agree that knowing how to collaborate is the key to effective knowledge creation and sharing, and to future business success. But collaboration is voluntary, and difficult to manage for hierarchical organizations accustomed to top‐down control. This is reflected in the difficulties organizations typically encounter when trying to persuade people to use technology tools designed to support collaboration. Social software, such as wikis and blogs, appears to be different. Wikis and blogs have become established outside the business world in phenomena such as Wikipedia and are now moving into mainstream business practice. The purpose of this article is to explore the role of wikis and blogs in supporting collaboration.
The article explores the use of social software in organizations through three case studies produced as part of a Henley Knowledge Management Forum research project.
The findings suggest that social software has the potential to help organizations develop collaboration capability, but the bottom‐up features that make it attractive to users can also make it unattractive to groups of people with a stake in preserving existing organizational structures.
The paper suggests that the impact of social software in an organization depends on the nature of the existing hierarchy and bureaucracy, and that social software can help organizations break down traditional hierarchies that impede collaboration and knowledge sharing. Preliminary work to develop a framework for understanding and managing these interactions is also presented.
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