Knowledge Sharing and The CIA's Intellipedia

Last Updated Jun 20, 2008 9:20 AM EDT

Knowledge Sharing and The CIA's IntellipediaThere is a worthwhile debate brewing over the value of Web 2.0 technologies such as wikis and prediction markets to improve corporate communication.

Even the US Central Intelligence Agency has fired up a knowledge-sharing wiki called Intellipedia, which recently celebrated its second anniversary. According to the CIA:

Intellipedia has grown into a valued repository of information that allows employees in any position (from analysts and engineers to librarians and HR specialists) to quickly learn about a wide variety of topics and issues important to the Intelligence Community and US Government. It also offers a powerful location for individuals from across the world to capture reporting as a crisis unfolds.
But Babson College's Tom Davenport throws a little cold water on the notion that Intellipedia will solve all the agency's problems, and suggests that no organization should rely on just one tool when it comes to knowledge sharing.

One of Davenport's readers hit the nail on the head: information sharing is more an attitude than a technology. Writes "Mike":

The problem isn't a lack of technology, but a lack of fundamental appreciation of the power of sharing information. The intelligence communities are so used to protecting information, all information, that the concept is foreign to them.
Unfortunately, businesses often display that same attitude. Information is power, and many executives only share data and knowledge within the organization on a need-to-know basis.

What has to be learned is that information is most powerful when it is used throughout an organization to inform decisions, not held close like a poker hand.

(Top Secret image by puamelia, CC 2.0)

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.