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Management: You Can Learn A Lot From 131,000 Wikipedians
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Management: You Can Learn A Lot From 131,000 Wikipedians - Executive Leadership Articles

Management: You Can Learn A Lot From 131,000 Wikipedians

Executive Leadership Articles

Management: You Can Learn A Lot From 131,000 Wikipedians

Wikipedia, that ambitious crowd-sourced encyclopedia on the Internet, is an anarchy, a disorganized chaos of no rules where anyone with a computer can make changes. The hypothesis of its many believers is that over time, the crowd will get its information right, and although many high-school teachers warn their students to stay away from Wikipedia, calling it an unreliable source whose content is created by absolutely anyone, many others encourage their students to embrace it as a model of collaboration and democracy.

There are 131,000 editors active (that is, spending at least one hour per week) in creating and editing content as well as in resolving disputes, voting for new procedures, and chiming in on all matters of cooperative interest. One might wonder how such an enormous group of unpaid workers with no rules ever accomplishes anything productive or meaningful, but ask any Wikipedian (as these active editors are called) and you’ll discover a set of principles and expected behaviors (remember: there are no rules) agreed on by the community and always subject to review, discussion, and amendment. Among the forces that keep Wikipedia dynamic and stable are the “Five Pillars” which define it and the agreed-upon guidelines for behavior.

Wikipedia’s Five Pillars explain first that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia; that it is written from a neutral point of view; that its content is free and that anyone may edit, use, modify, and distribute this content; that editors are encouraged to treat each other with respect and civility; and that Wikipedia does not have firm rules. These clear, purposeful pillars serve as the structure on which adherents resolve differences and create content. While each pillar serves its purpose, the “respect and civility” pillar is the one that, on a daily basis, enables Wikipedians of every stripe to be productive members of this driven community.

In order to define “respect and civility,” Wikipedia’s editors agree on guidelines for behavior which, in Wikipedia conversations, always begin with the principle of assuming good faith. When Wikipedians can agree to take it for granted that everyone involved is trying to make Wikipedia better, differences can be resolved by calm, rational discussion, rather than by accusatory finger-pointing, so that even when ideologies clash, disagreements can remain focused on content, as opposed to personalities or emotions. This is not to say that the human-ness of any participant is ever overlooked; rather, it means that the human on the other side of the conflict is assumed to be all the good things that people are and is acting in only the best interest of the community.

Every organization with a vision or a mission statement depends on the personal investment of its participants, and while employees of the company may differ in motivations, ambitions, and values, they can overcome—and even celebrate—differences as the heart of what makes collaboration work. Assuming good faith, treating others with respect, resisting the temptation to do something harmful just to make a point, arguing facts (and not personalities), and always forgiving and forgetting are a few specific examples of how these thousands of unpaid, unorganized, ungoverned encyclopedia editors manage to create the sixth most-visited website on the Internet, with 4.5 million articles, more than ten times the number in Encyclopedia Brittanica. Is there something your organization can learn from 131,000 anarchists?

 

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Management: You Can Learn A Lot From 131,000 Wikipedians - Executive Leadership Articles

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