Work Smart: Three Ways to Use Google Wave in Your Business

Google Wave

Google Wave is an exciting new tool that combines the best features from email, instant messenger, forums, and wiki’s into a single interface. In Wave, a group of people can simultaneously edit the same document in their web browser in real-time. That means that you can watch your co-workers’ cursors type keystroke-by-keystroke on your screen as they work. Wave is flashy and full of potential—but what can you actually use it for?

Right now your organization's documentation most likely lives in files saved on a shared network drive. Your co-workers copy and edit these documents, email them around as attachments, discuss them during meetings and over IM. Multiple versions proliferate; if one person is editing the file on the shared drive, another cannot because the file is locked. There's no easy way to see who changed what, or figure out where the most recent version is located. Lengthy email threads fracture collaborative work the same way—with every reply, multiple copies proliferate, and it's not always easy to see the most current state of the conversation.

Google Wave helps solve these problems. In Google Wave a document is a single, hosted conversation—called a lowercase "wave"—that participants can edit simultaneously in real-time. Participants can chat back and forth as well as co-edit the same text in a wave, and they can also search and playback changes to a wave over time.

Right now the Google Wave Preview is invitation-only, and it’s not close to finished. Still, there are three basic Wave use cases for your business.

First, Wave is a killer app for taking meeting notes. A dozen people taking notes in a single document is much more efficient than each person taking his or her individual notes. In Wave, you can add inline questions or comments that refer to individual points, creating an efficient backchannel: meeting attendees can respond to one another without interrupting the presenter, and latecomers can easily catch up on what they missed.

Second, Wave hosts in-depth conversations with remote co-workers who aren’t in the same conference room or office better than email or IM. You know those long emails with lists of bullet points and questions that get CC’ed to 20 people and garner dozens of fractured responses that clutter inboxes? Wave turns those kinds of discussions—the ones that require point-by-point replies—into a single hosted document that anyone can join in at any time.

Finally, Wave can serve as a light company intranet, where documentation can live and grow, and include rich content like maps, video clips, images, and polls. For example, a planning wave for the company picnic might use a poll to see who's attending, include a list of food items participants can volunteer to bring, a map with directions to the park, and after the event, photos of the attendees everyone can comment on.

Whether or not Google Wave will get widely adopted remains to be seen. But whether it's Wave or another web 2.0 application, real-time collaboration in a living workspace like Wave will replace those dead documents on your network's shared drives eventually.

To request an invitation to Google Wave, visit To learn more, check out my book, The Complete Guide to Google Wave, which is free to read online at

Gina Trapani is the author of Upgrade Your Life and founding editor of Work Smart appears every week on


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  • Kyle Turpin

    There's an unwritten part of every job description that continuous improvement is a given. Anybody who "doesn't have time" to check out a new tool or experiment with a new process is failing to manage their time.

  • Dana Wormer

    I appreciate the fast-track to getting inside of Google Wave - I had set it aside, lacking the time to dig in deeper and frankly, not quickly finding its compelling case for use. Thank you.

  • Dan Rockwell


    I've been wondering about wave. Thanks for some insight.


    Leadership Freak
    Dan Rockwell

  • Charlie Badenhop

    How about the problems of getting any soft like this, to work behind the firewalls of big companies?

    That is one of the big problems I always find.
    That, and getting the IT dept. to agree on something new being useful.

  • Lawrence Rose

    I'm with Gregory. I've had a Google Wave account for several months, and have had no idea what it could do for me. I appreciate these kinds of posts. A big pass.

  • Gregory Ferenstein

    @steve and @tom, many fast company readers come to the magazine to learn new tips and tricks. Since Google is a a major provider of business tools, how else should fast company review potentially useful tools its writers happen to find useful? Are there other articles or reviews of Google Wave you have found more helpful?


  • Chris Reich

    Gina is a blogger. She blogs on a specialized subject. This post is about a tool Gina believes might be useful to business. Many, if not most, people in business do not have time to "play" with features in Word let alone crawl the Internet to find collaboration apps.

    I like articles that save me the trouble of looking for new tools.


    Chris Reich

  • Tom DeSantis

    I aggree, this is written by someone who is a cheerleader for Google Wave - complete with a Complete Guide to Google Wave. Fail.