Wasn't it just yesterday that "wiki" was a funny word? Well, a lot has changed since then. Today wikis are not only used by the Web 2.0 kids -- they are now being analyzed, evaluated and integrated into the day-to-day flow of the enterprise. Respected for their simple collaborative possibilities, these useful little tools are also becoming a way of life behind the firewall. But wikis may seem like "the simplest things that could possibly work," integrating them is trickier than most think, and requires some finesse. What follows are a few simple strategies for integrating wikis into office life.

Patterns, Anti-patterns and Growth

Everyone wants to know how others are implementing wikis in their workplaces, but the very essence of wiki implies that it is for the user to create and otherwise experiment with. There is no one way to wiki, but there are ways to figure out what will work best. Awhile ago we covered a cool site called Wikipatterns.com, which aims to give users a "toolbox of patterns and anti-patterns, and a guide to the stages of wiki adoption." Users can follow patterns, or those models worthy of imitation, and learn to recognize anti-patterns, or those that represent negative patterns of behavior or consequence.

Entice the 'Empty Quarter'

Andrew McAfee deems the "empty quarter" as those folks that are relatively unlikely to learn and adopt new tools and strategies. Generally, these people are the ones with the biggest fears of technology and the greater number of years out of school. McAfee explained that "if the inhabitants of the empty quarter just continue to collaborate via email, the information they exchange is not globally persistent or visible, can't be accessed or referred to by others, and doesn't stand the chance of becoming part of something bigger and better." Companies are encouraged to try strategies that lay at the "intersection of coaching, leading by example, and policy-setting" to help encourage fearful staff to use the tools of Enterprise 2.0.

Document and Collaborate

Instead of wasting time writing notes on your office whiteboard -- which is forever a few short moments from being wiped clean -- try capturing post-meeting ideas on a wiki. You'll benefit from both the simplicities of documenting and sharing notes, and the complexities of a hypertext publishing environment. Yet, as Michael Angeles notes, wikis are "only effective tools if you invest time and effort in making them work for your particular group of users." He outlined how his organization learned to utilize their StaffWiki -- for better, and for worse. Ultimately Michael emphasizes that successfully implementing a wiki "depends on ensuring that you make the system bend to meet the processes and needs of your users and that you are able to invest time in training and in continually managing it."

Socialize and Lead

One common concern related to implementing social-media tools is that new tools will make employees too social, and that it will be hard to maintain a level of corporate leadership when everyone is able to share their voice. Giovanni Rodriguez advocates that wikis and other social media are dependent upon the patterns of peer pressure, namely peer production, peer adjudication, peer communication, peer storage and peer aggregation. According to Rodriguez, "the idea is that when more people -- more staff, more customers, more partners -- participate in the creation of knowledge, the quantity and quality of knowledge also increases." By following the rules of the new social media world, "businesses are learning what it means to lead in this new world, and the patterns we are studying can help them to innovate." There you have it. Like most good things in life, learning to wiki whilst you work takes a bit of time and effort. But the benefits of tracking emerging patterns, and cultivating employees who document and collaborate, can help businesses create an open environment. In an open environment, employees have an opportunity to contribute and knowledge has an opportunity to persist.