The New Social Learning Home Page
Chapter Summaries

The Story

Sean Dennehy and his colleagues Calvin Andrus and Don Burke at the CIA saw the need for a system within the intelligence community that not only broke down barriers to information sharing and capturing knowledge, but one that also demonstrated that intelligence knows no geographic boundaries. They created a wiki for use by the intelligence community named Inetellipedia. Similar to Wikipedia, Intellipedia allows agents to share information, intelligence, evidence, tips and background information across agency boundaries and serves as a hub where people can quickly glean details that matter to their work. Not meant to replace the “finished” analysis used by decision makers, Intellipedia instead complements the published data with updates from a wide range of experts who can continually scrutinize and amend what’s written.

The Technology

Modern collaboration tools provide a space where groups can capture, organize, share, and use its emerging and dynamic knowledge. Using general wiki platforms, or applications such as Google Docs and DimDim, that track edits, several people can amend documents and project from anywhere and in doing so, create a path of how the end product evolved. These tools fulfill many different objectives for collaborating, teaching, recording, and learning. To do so, however, they must be vibrant, social, and relevant to the goals of the organization. Users must also think topically, not organizationally, so debate can focus on the issue at hand and not on who said what. The tool should be available to the broadest possible audience, which decreases duplicate work, and it should also replace time-consuming processes.

Responding to Critics

Critics will argue finished content is more valuable thank works in progress. They’ll argue it’s risky to let anyone post anything, that there’s no way to share unique information, and only a few people contribute. We say collaborative spaces become a venue for enhancing the thoroughness and comprehensiveness of the product. The transparencies of collaborative tools make it easy to quickly spot and address inappropriate behavior. Additionally, contributors can build a reputation on the site, attracting the attention of leaders within the organization. The malleable platforms of these tools are perfect for sharing unique information that may not fit neatly into other document management systems. People will begin using the tools once they realize how easy they are to use.


Our recommendations for getting started with collaborative tools include being bold in fixing incorrect information, but also giving careful thought to your changes. Begin with topics that will inspire conversations and ask people at all levels in the organization to contribute. Use a lighthearted, personal tone in the space. Depend on the group to reinforce good practices and deter inappropriate behavior and comments. Ask hard questions. Encourage “tagging,” or linking to other relevant content. And don’t rely solely on the tools. Show the value and necessity of using the tools.