Friday 6 March 2020

5 design principles for a KM platform - lessons from IDEO

IDEO based their KM platform around 5 design principles. Here they are.

Image from wikimedia commons
Here is a fascinating article by Doug Solomon, entitled "The Tube: IDEO Builds a Collaboration System That Inspires through Passion." It describes how IDEO, the famous design and innovation agency, built themselves a KM platform - "The Tube" - after discovering that there was nothing off-the-shelf that fitted their culture and requirements. One key lesson was as follows:

"The unique success of the Tube comes from the insight that effective knowledge sharing is a social activity that is enabled by technology, rather than a technological solution bolted onto an existing work culture".
This is a very interesting way to look at it - as platform for social activity rather than as a technology - and is a refreshingly different approach from a well-respected organisation.

IDEO built the Tube based on 5 design principles, listed below with commentary from the article, and from me.

 1) Build Pointers to People: rather than trying to take all of the knowledge out of people’s heads and store it in a giant database, focus primarily on helping people to identify and connect to knowledgeable people. We know KM is about Connecting as much as (if not more than) it is about Collecting. So make sure your platform does both.

 2) Build Rewarding Systems: a system that requires altruism is unlikely to be successful. Similarly, systems that require users to participate (e.g. compliance-based design) rarely get anything more than participation at the lowest required level. Effective knowledge sharing systems must have a "Whats in it for me" for the users and contributors. IDEO saw The Tube as a platform to allow employees to showcase their best work.

 3) Demand Intuitive Interfaces: The system must present as few points of friction as possible from the process of becoming an active user. It must be easy and intuitive to use. Remove all barriers to adoption!

 4) Take the Road More Travelled: if a tool requires people to go out of their way to use it, adoption will always be a challenge, no matter how wonderfully designed. Wherever possible, strive to integrate tools into existing work processes. If people are used to receiving notifications through email, then link your system to email. Don't expect people to develop a new work habit just to be able to share knowledge, because they won't. For example, the IDEO blogging system didn't take off until the team added a program that sent digest emails with new content from subscribed blogs.

 5) Iterate Early and Often: building effective systems for organisations means designing tools and workflows that mirror the social systems they are meant to support, which means multiple cycles of iteration between the platform design team and the users. We talked about this in terms of the KM Framework as a whole, when we described multiple pilot projects, and releasing a KM "minimum viable product" so the KM team can evolve their KM solution to fit the needs and working habits of the users.

If you need to design your own KM platform, these 5 principles should be on the first page of your design strategy.

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