An interesting post from Mary Abraham on what an analysis of searches might tell you about knowledge topics. If you could analyse patterns of searches, it might lead you to identify emergent knowledge topics in your organisation, your community, or in society. It might provide a bottom-up approach to identifying your critical knowledge areas.
We tried just this approach of analysing queries in a big community of practice recently. The queries to the community forum were already characterised into topics because when you submit a search to this particular community of practice you have to choose which topic it is related to. So that saved us having to assign categories.
We divided these topics into four quadrants;
1. Topics where there were few questions, but each one got lots of answers. These tended to be areas of common knowledge, where most people knew the answer and only a few new people did not. For these topics, we could write guidelines or faqs for the benefit of the new staff
2. Lots of questions, lots of answers. These were the important and evolving Knowledge topics where it was worth while setting up community meetings so that we could start to exchange and document best practice (maybe a knowledge exchange, maybe a knowledge market).
3. Lots of questions, few answers. These were the problem areas, where some more research or action learning was needed to start to develop solutions.
4. Few questions, few answers. Our assumption was that these are not particularly important areas, but that it was worth watching them in case they developed into problem areas.
This was a very useful analysis and led to a greater understanding of the important evolving and problem topics within the community, as well as helping to suggest some community activities in order to improve their knowledge.