Friday 25 June 2010

You wont use it if you can't find it - findability in KM

About a year ago, I took over the role of treasurer for my little local church. This is a tiny church, dating back to the 1100s, but still active and still requiring funding, so when the current treasurer moved away, someone had to take over. He gave me a good handover, but this is a new job for me and I have had a number of headaches already, where i have been scratching my head wondering how to do some arcane component of the role.

This week, I have been working with the diocesan offices, helping them with plans to set up some Communities of Practice, and we were discussing the role of the treasurer. My contact mentioned that there is a Treasurer's handbook on the diocesan website.

Well, this was news to me. I wish I had known about this before - it could have been very useful. I went to the website, browsed around, searched under "Treasurer", and still couldn't find the handbook (I have since been told where it is, and it's a gold-mine of information).

I wonder how often this happens? Someone creates a great knowledge resource, but others don't know about it, and even if they do suspect it's there, they can't find it.

That's where we, as KM professionals, need to consider two things


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. I wish someone had done this for me when I inducted as a treasurer.


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). 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). I wish the Diocese had made their resources more findable.

In conclusion, I would like to add to Peter Morville's three-line poem.

Awareness preceds findability which precedes usability
in the Alphabet and on the Web.
You can't use what you can't find,
and you won't find what you don't look for.


Anonymous said...

it's true that you must alert your audience about available knowledge. Sometimes people will not know what knowledge is available till such a time they need it. This support Dave Snowden heuristics of managing knowledge where he said " we only know what we need to know when we need to know it"

Nick Milton said...

Exactly, anonymous.

And its more than alerting, its making it findable. An alert is no use to people who dont need the knowledge yet. I could alert you right now about road closures between Bath and Bristol, but until you need to drive from Bath to Bristol, that alert means nothing to you. When you DO need to drive that route, then the knowledge needs to be findable.

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