Thursday, March 03, 2005

Creating "subject matter experts" at your company

From Anecdote, an Australian consultancy for "company knowledge:" How to harness the inherent knowledge of your internal staff through blogs and wikis. Their solution is simple and ingenious - just as a project like Wikipedia does, you create a central database for your company, and let random employees add to it wherever they happen to be accidental experts of that particular subject matter. This can then make a company so much more efficient in so many more ways, they argue - less money spent on external experts, less time spent on help lines, less effort spent doing formal research that's doubling what someone in-house already knows.

Conversations like this always remind me of the Christian Science Monitor, a newspaper here in America that's deceptively balanced and intellectual, despite its name. At their website they encourage in-house staff members to not only run their own blogs based on the subject matter of which of that person is an expert, but to also share the blog with the public, and indeed to tout it as an exclusive feature of the web version of their publication. Here's the one by Ruth Walker, for example, head copy editor of the newspaper, which unsurprisingly is a highly entertaining look at the intricacies of language and grammar. My point is that an in-house blog by staff experts doesn't necessarily have to be for in-house use only, and doesn't necessarily have to be about traditional business issues either - bookstores can set up blogs for their staff, and turn them each into one-person review factories, or retail clothing stores can set up blogs for their salespeople, and turn each of them into one-person fashion mavens.

There are all kinds of opportunities out there for turning your staff into a potent new source of valuable content, and thus encouraging more customers, crossing all kinds of boundaries regarding industry, company size and office environment. And such a thing certainly helps the worker in question defeat the slow, soul-crushing agony most office and retail jobs usually are during most hours of the day, by giving them something actually creative and fun to do on company time. Come on, you know your workers are all on the internet anyway, when you're not looking. Why not give them something to do that your company can benefit from while they're at it?

(Look at all the people I have to thank! Fredrik Wacka for bringing Anecdote to my attention; "Column Two" for bringing it to his attention; and Web Pro News for bringing Wacka's blog to my attention in the first place. Whew!)