Tom Davenport and I have debated about
Tom just sent an email congratulating me for being part of 2007’s second most popular article in HBS Working Knowledge, the school’s online newspaper about faculty research. Sean Silverthorne wrote the article, which covers the online case Karim Lakhani and I wrote about Wikipedia’s “
When I look at the other articles, I’m amazed that we even made it onto the list, let alone that we were second only to Jim Heskett’s summary of different views of leadership as control, delegation, and theater. Leadership, of course, is a classic, enduring, and perennially popular topic in management research, as are innovation, negotiation, consumer behavior, organizational learning, etc.. Collaboratively produced free online encyclopedias, meanwhile, have not been.
So what, aside from Sean’s excellent writing, made the article so popular? Working Knowledge subscribers are busy, pragmatic businesspeople, and I’d imagine that the newsletter’s readership does not overlap much with that of Boing Boing, Slashdot, or even Wired. And whoever was reading the article was probably not looking primarily for money-making tips; Wikipedia generates no revenue and has announced no plans to do so.
I think the article was popular, first and foremost, because Wikipedia is inherently fascinating. It’s not immediately clear how it works at all, let alone why it works so well, so people read to educate themselves.
I also think, though, that at least some readers were interested in figuring out how to apply Wikipedia’s tools and approaches within their own organizations. They wondered if there was anything they could extract from Wikipedia and exploit for themselves. In short, they were interested in
Happy New Year, all!