Addressing the barriers and answering the protests about using social media and collaborative tools cannot be any more difficult than in the spy business. In the Sunday NYT Magazine (free registration required), Clive Thompson reports on how the US intelligence community has been incorporating blogs and wikis into the way they do business.
Among the points made in the article that you can apply to your situation, whether it is in a corporate, public or nonprofit setting working with any health or social issue are:
The need to focus on the challenges posed by your organizational culture even more than the technologies to make them work for you. He was also up against something deeper in the DNA of the intelligence services. “We’ve had this ‘need to know’ culture for years,” Meyerrose said. “Well, we need to move to a ‘need to share’ philosophy.”
Designing the innovations of using wikis and blogs to be quickly and broadly adopted by a critical mass of workers (early adopters and early majority) and not just a few fashion-setters or geeks. For the intelligence agencies to benefit from “social software,” he said, they need to persuade thousands of employees to begin blogging and creating wikis all at once. And that requires a cultural sea change: persuading analysts, who for years have survived by holding their cards tightly to their chests, to begin openly showing their hands online.
Acknowledging and working with the 'traditionalists' or 'laggards' in your organization who, for better of worse, are often in critical positions to influence whether innovations are introduced in the first place. The resistance comes from the “iron majors” — career officers who occupy the enormous middle bureaucracy of the spy agencies. They might find the idea of an empowered grass roots to be foolhardy; they might also worry that it threatens their turf.
As you think about introducing social media into your organization, or are just beginning to do so, the examples from the intelligence community may help persuade some of your colleagues of their untapped potential. But also remember that it is a diffusion of innovations process in an organizational setting. Follow what we know about diffusion theory and you are likely to be much more successful and avoid a number of headaches along the way.
And for some other resources about wikis, here's a post on some of the interpersonal and management issues you need to plan for and the wikimatrix site that can help you choose from among the many wiki platforms that are currently available.