wikipedia susan davis international washington dcToday we honor the incredible, and at least semi-credible source of information you can’t help but secretively take a peek at every once in a while (or more) — Wikipedia. Why the honor? It’s Wikipedia’s 15th birthday, and although it’s a resource we in the public relations field are loath to quote, let alone celebrate, it does offer some public relations bona fides. One of them is team building.

In spite of its open platform, where independent editors write and rewrite immeasurably to create a free online encyclopedia for all Internet users, Wikipedia exemplifies team building.

How does it do that?  It’s true that there’s a continuous battle between people who make a living editing Wiki articles and the unpaid true believing editors of Wiki, 250,000 strong, who zealously guard the process. But Wikipedia’s veritable army of editors (or auditors, I should say) put strong mechanisms in place to deal with people who breach guidelines and engage in what they believe is unethical and a conflict of interest editing. Overall, editors collectively decide what content can be edited and which new entries to create. On a platform of more than 5 million articles, talk about team work!

Looking at Wikipedia in this way reminds PR practitioners of the importance of working effectively as a team, especially in the increasingly complex environment of public relations, where many “editors” can either make the broth or spoil it.  Here are 4 reasons to value working as a team:

  1. Improves communication – Sharing responsibilities requires checks and balances, which encourages team members to engage openly with each other. Perceived barriers to communicating can break down in a group environment and in the best team practices, individuals are inspired by the group dynamics to share and discuss ideas and opinions. Improved communications can reinforce office relationships and in turn, the quality of work performed.
  2. Promotes creativity – Working together with other team members can ignite creativity and engender fresh ideas. Bringing people together from different backgrounds and levels of experience brings diversity of thought and can help create optimal solutions.
  3. Develops problem-solving skills – Public relations practitioners must be prepared to handle crises for their clients at any time. Tasks that require coworkers to work together to solve problems can improve their ability to think rationally and strategically.
  4. Increases efficiency ̶  Most people don’t have all the skills or all the answers to tackle complicated problems. Harnessing the rich diversity of abilities among a group of individuals can present the quickest, most efficient path to a solution.

This is your day Wikipedia. So to you we say thanks for striking a chord for us PR professionals in exemplifying the possibilities of effective collaboration.

Happy Birthday!

By Gadeer Ghannam, SDI

Gadeer is an SDI intern earning her Master’s degree in Strategic Communications and Public Relations at Trinity Washington University.

January 15, 2016