Friday 27 August 2010

Speaking to the unknown user

Originally uploaded by Salman Al-Salman
One of the biggest challenges that faces knowledge management, and that is the challenge of awareness, or consciousness. Knowledge is derived from action and experience, but most of it remains unconscious. We learn, we are able to do things better, but we are often not aware of what we have learnt. We do not know what we know. The tools and techniques we have developed and applied in Knoco for capturing knowledge, are specifically designed to get at the unconscious knowledge. By applying these techniques, we can make knowledge conscious, and then if we need to capture it, we populate our knowledge banks with quality knowledge.

However the other side of the coin is that the customer for the knowledge, the future user of the knowledge, is unaware of what she needs to know. She does not know (or is not aware) what she does not know. You cannot rely on her interrogating a database to find the knowledge she needs, when she is blissfully unaware of what she needs. She could not search for it, as she does not know what to search for. She doesn't know which tags to look for, she may not know which sites to visit or RSS feeds to join. The knowledge she needs has to be presented to her in a structured form, so she can learn what she needs to know. It needs not just to be findable and usable, it needs to guide and lead the user as well.

The way in which knowledge is stored in the knowledge bank is crucial. If it is not user focused - if it does not give the future knowledge user what you are sure she needs to know, rather than what she thinks she wants to know - then the real knowledge does not get transferred, and so does not get applied.

So think through - who might need this knowledge in future? How can we lead them to understand it? How can we give them the overview as well as the depth? How can we show this unknown user the things they don't realise that they don't know?


Atle Iversen said...

This is a very important point, and often very underestimated as well !

This is also one of the most difficult differences between personal knowledge management and "standard" knowledge management IMHO.

With PKM you can store your knowledge any way you want, as long as it makes sense to *you* !

Once you want to share knowledge, you not only have to anticipate who might need it in the future, but what form it should be in for them to understand it and make use of it.

Where should you share it, how should you share it, why should you share it ?

And just to make matters worse; after a while the knowledge may not be useful anymore, and you should even remove it (to reduce the "noise" and information overload).

Great post !

Anonymous said...

I agree, a great post!! What I would add is that learning comes from consciously working on/with the stored knowledge especially by acting on it.
Other things to keep in mind is that knowledge is always situated - it only exists in relation to specific situations and (as Dave Snowden would say: "only when we need to know it").
As a result we have to continually construct and reconstruct our knowledge in order to be able to act and to make arrangements for action
Ivan Webb

John Tropea said...

This is the curse of knowledge

How do you get round shared context?

Your post seems to be more about learning and awareness. That's what I like about Twitter, I'm aware of so many things in easy digestable daily fragments that blip on my radar, thx to my trust filter of people. This discovery or learning may not be usable now, but it's doable as it's in bite size fragments. One day I may be on a task or someone may ask me something and I may think, I remember seeing something about this...I'll go back and recall it.

Really good question Nick - people don't often ponder stuff that's out there that they need to know or would like to know exists eg. new ways of thinking, concepts, etc...

Blog Archive