Jimmy Wales: “Wikipedia touches on a holistic view of the person“ 2012/04/12 - Leonardo – European Corporate Learning Award presented

“The total amount of formal education, like kindergarten through university level, is about the same”, said Jimmy Wales at the award's presentation on Friday, the 30th of March 2012, in Berlin about the past 30 years of learning. “What has changed dramatically is informal learning.“ People who are already in their career, basically use the internet to keep up about what is happening in their respective fields, e.g. in the area of technology. As the fifth most popular website in the world with more than 500 million visitors per month, Wikipedia also plays a decisive part in that.

In this context, the current Leonardo award winner put himself in the tradition of Jacques Delors, who had received the award for his holistic vision of education “learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be“ in 2010: “Wikipedia is part of a lifestyle almost these days. We are always exploring, we are always learning“, said Wales. When there's something people do not know, or they want to find out the scientific backgrounds, they inform themselves via Wikipedia. “We have become part of the infrastructure of the world in that sense”, Wales explained, “and Wikipedia really touches on a holistic view of the person”.

Wales demands more freedom for corporate learning

People's new attitude towards learning that Wikipedia has contributed has also influenced the companies: According to Jimmy Wales, employers do no good if they do not give way to their employee's curiosity and thirst for knowledge and exploring. “People are much more attached to their work, when it is intellectually rewarding, when it is stimulating and interesting.” According to Wales companies should encourage their employees to grow as a person, to learn a lot of different things and to interact with communities in different ways.

Wikipedia shows how this works: Who is interested in a subject, turns this into an article and thus animates others to complete it. Adjustments are supposed to be assistance instead of rigid control. “Wikipedia invites everyone not just to receive knowledge from on high but also to contribute to it, to participate and to proof things“, says Wales. He acknowledged this participatory approach to the creation of knowledge also in the activities of Nando Stöcklin, Dennis Barthel and Ziko van Dijk, who represented Wikipedia at the Cologne Leonardo event, as they strengthen the information competence of the users and the cooperation with various organizations, such as schools.

Jimmy Wales and more

from the left:
Secretary of the Leonardo Günther M. Szogs, Educational Representative for Germany Denis Barthel, Jimmy Wales, Educational Representative for the Netherlands Dr. Ziko van Dijk, Managing Director of Wikimedia Germany Pavel Richter, Leonardo Initiator Alexander R. Petsch

Demographically mixing authors

However, Wikipedia still faces a lot of challenges, like raising the proportion of women and elderly people among the active wikipedians. “We want to get more people involved in the process of sharing knowledge in all kinds of areas”, Wales emphasized. This is basically a technical challenge: “Many of the people who contributed to Wikipedia are computer geeks and computer technologists. But lots of people who could contribute with their knowledge shy away from it, as it is too difficult to use“. That is why Wales is concerned with making the software simpler.

Jimmy Wales' successor this year as the winner of the Leonardo – European Corporate Learning Award will be announced by the award's initiators and ambassadors in June, 2012. However, it is already certain that the award will be presented shortly before the opening of the HRM Expo trade fair in the evening of Monday, the 24th of September 2012 at the Hotel Schloss Bensberg near Cologne.