Monday 20 July 2015

How to make knowledge findable

How many times do people miss knowledge because they don't know it exists, or can't find it?

My guess is that this happens all the time. Someone creates a great knowledge resource, but others don't know about it, and even if they do suspect it's there and go seeking for it, they can't find it.

To avoid playing hide-and-seek with knowledge we, as KM professionals, need to consider four things

We need to make people aware of the sources of knowledge

Somehow we need to be able to alert people that knowledge resources exist. We need something or someone who says "there are experts in this field, and there are resources available to you. You do not need to make this up for yourself. There is knowledge out there, which you can acquire". In your organisation, you need to bring this awareness in during induction, and you need to point people to the key tools - the search engine, the community index, the yellow pages.

We need to concentrate on Findability

We need to ensure that knowledge resources are findable. As Peter Morville, the author of Ambient Findability says

Findability precedes usability
in the Alphabet and on the Web
You can't use what you can't find.

Your knowledge assets MUST be findable. They must be ambiently findable (which means that by their very nature, they pop up when you start looking). The titles of the documents, lessons etc need to give a strong indication of the knowledge within.

As knowledge managers, sometimes we spend far too much time creating usable knowledge assets, without thinking about creating findable knowledge assets (actually, we often spend too much time on capture, and ignore both usability and findability).

We need to ensure knowledge is stored in sensible places

See my blog post on "a haystack is no place to store a needle"

We need to "keep the name with the knowledge"

Very often the findable knowledge is the documented knowledge, and as we know, documented knowledge only contains a proportion of the total knowledge. You need to ensure that documented knowledge includes the name of the contributor(s) so you know who to contact if you want the tacit detail.  The documented knowledge therefore acts as the signpost to the tacit knowledge.

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