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5 Uses for a Wiki at Work

5 Uses for a Wiki at Work
MediaWiki

Wikis are very useful for organizing information between groups of people. If you want a really good, quick, “get up to speed” tutorial on wikis, watch this movie by Common Craft. The thing is, once you’re sold on this, you’ve gotta determine when and why to use a wiki in your workplace? What value can they bring? How will you engage your team? Here are some thoughts:

Operations Guides– As fast as you can put down information on what to do in a certain situation at work, it changes. Right? “If the A server goes down, reboot the router.” No… scribble, scribble… Manuals are dead. If I owned a wiki company, I’d sell tee shirts that said “paper is dead.” Wiki-fy your operations manuals (and sure, print them once a month to keep an offline copy, should power go out).

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Dashboard– There are better calendering options out there, especially for group projects, but a wiki can be a great FOCUS TOOL for upcoming events. If you’ve got the kind of business that works on deadlines, and on projects, it’s a great way to put a kind of “dashboard” that shows deadlines, things to focus on, and maybe key contacts/resources for that time frame.

Water Cooler– In the world of telecommuting, there becomes a need for telecommunity. Throw up an employee-driven wiki page for stuff for sale, outside-of-work events, and other items. It becomes a great way to keep people connected outside of the email stream. (Which is kind of the point of wikis).

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Fact and FAQ Lists– I find wikis are a great way to share all the easy things you need over and over again. For instance, what’s that command that lets you pipe the output of a query right into a MySQL database? Put a line in the wiki showing that info. Did you switch suppliers? Put a reminder on the fact sheet. Want to gather up product resources quickly with links? Wikis are great for it.

Making Plans– Wikis are excellent ways to build up a project for either inside or outside of work. In the workplace, wikis can be a great place to get the brainstorming down, and then maybe to a second edit before committing the information to a more formal project plan. Wiki as whiteboard, I’m suggesting. I think this makes for a quick way to get lots of ideas thrown together. Imagine gathering around a conference call with everyone working on the same wiki. It’s like getting the whiteboard notes without that extra step of copying. Maybe not as easy as a mind-map, but definitely another way to capture points for planning.

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And what about you? What are some ways you can envision (or have successfully implemented) in the workplace?

–Chris Brogan blogs at [chrisbrogan.com]. He has a wiki in use for PodCamp Europe a FREE unconference taking place in Stockholm on 12-13 June

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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