When I tried to get feedback from technical writers in various forums and discussion groups, I gathered that even most of us do NOT use documentation to learn something new! This could be because of the nature of our job where we tryout stuff first before documenting. Old habits die hard.
On the other hand, when I asked typical users about their opinion on documentation, the response was mixed. Some, tech savvy users said they preferred to experiment themselves and learn, instead of reading help. Another user commented that, when he searches help, it confuses him more by giving endless alternative suggestions. Yet another comment was that when I pay for something, I expect it to work for me and not make me study something! An extreme feedback was that this user had difficulties in accessing documentation itself. Now, this is a serious usability issue.
Coming back to the point, on how documentation is treated at the production level, am sure that it's high time that we come up with out of the box solutions to bring happy ending or rather happy beginning for documentation. It is just not enough to write context sensitive help, deploy in all possible formats. In today's era of viral marketing we could easily promote the use of documentation.
Just wondering how fast things can happen with viral marketing effect on networking sites. Take for instance, the US disintegration predictions of Dr. Igorum Panarin's Forecasts has gained momentum, just after The Wall Street Journal published an article on this topic.
Trying to apply viral marketing concept to bring success for well deserved but least appreciated documentation, I would say that convince the team to "sell" documentation like the product itself. This would give a head start and bring documentation into limelight. This in turn, would bring users attention to the right source and ultimately achieve the goal.