Saturday, February 19, 2011

Don't publish content without a usage strategy in place

I spent yesterday transferring a case study from a complex PowerPoint format (with embedded videos and exercises) to a more accessible wiki.  It turned out to be a rather labor intensive, mind-numbing activity.

The earlier alternative had been a zipped file which contained all the individual pieces, including videos, attachments, etc... Needless to say, very few people were going to download the zipped file to their desktop in order to get a sense of what the whole thing was about.

So, now the case study is technically more "accessible."  Does that mean it is going to be used?  No. Can I get the wiki stats to lie for me?  Yes.  I can probably collect statistics that will tell me that X number of people accessed the case study every week.  However, if I were to ask these X people whether they went through the entire case and found it useful, I'm guessing the answers would not be very positive.  I'd learn that they stumbled upon the case study while looking for something else and promptly exited.

Ideally, the entity creating content of that nature, content that was designed for a face-to-face training environment, needs to think about how the materials would need to be adjusted or re-purposed for other uses.  When the content is yours, you have a strong incentive to ensure that it doesn't sit on a shelf or deep in a folder on someone's desktop. You also have a better sense of how it could or should be used.  You have a good sense of why you developed it in the first place.  When you're inheriting someone else's content, it's tempting to just make it accessible but not really get invested in whether people will get any value out of it.

So, yesterday, while I was concentrating deeply on manipulating files to reconstruct the case study in its new, more accessible environment, a few questions came up:
* When I create (or re-purpose) content, shouldn't I pay a little more attention to what I name the files, so that someone else, coming later, would have a sense of what they are even if they're not familiar with the content.
* When I create (or re-purpose) content, shouldn't I have a usage strategy in mind?  I know who the target audience is for that case study.  I know who would need to take a lead role in promoting the use of that case study.  The next step would be to make that explicit, to proactively engage those people most likely to have a use for it. 

Perhaps "usage strategy" isn't the right phrase. Perhaps it's an "engagement strategy."  I want people to engage with the material.
* Why would people engage with this material?
* How are people going to engage with this material?
* How do I tweak the original material to make it more user friendly in its new "setting"?
* How do I let the right people know it's there?

Similar issues arise with all of the case studies we work with.  They're designed for face-to-face training.  We post them to make them more accessible, but our real target group consists of instructors who might consider using the cases in their training. Hence, it's not enough to make them more accessible.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Bookmarked in First Half of February 2011

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Social Business Software and KM - Percolating

I do my best to leave work at the office and switch the brain to non-work related things when I close the office door.  Sometimes, though, work sticks to my brain. It's often a question or a set of questions that need to percolate for a while. The office isn't a very good place for reflection, so I tolerate reflection and percolation during off-hours.

Here are some of the questions currently percolating:

1. How to ensure a KM impact for social business software
If a social business software is introduced within the organization with the specific purpose of improving internal communications, how can I make sure that the implementation also supports knowledge management?

a.  I set up a KM community within the new platform and champion KM through that space, potentially replicating perceptions of KM as something the KM office does rather than something everybody should be doing (Big Foot approach).

b. I seed KM-related comments, suggestions, resources, etc.. throughout the various communities, turning myself into the annoying KM guru-wannabe who obviously has too much time on her hands.

c.  I make sure not to refer to anything I do as KM and I actively participate in relevant communities, modeling the behavior I'd want to see from all employees with regards to KM (super-stealth approach).

2. Competition between Tools / Too Much of a Good Thing?
If a social business software is introduced within the organization when another tool (a wiki) is on the rise, will there be competition between the two sets of tools and how do you prevent confusion regarding the purpose of each tool?

a. Yes, there will be confusion unless the differences are clearly explained and the two tools are presented as complementary rather than competing.

b. People are going to be reluctant to learn two new tools.  They'll insist on using one or the other because they already know how to use it, rather than pick the most appropriate tool for the task.

c. There's enough space for everyone to play in both playgrounds.  I'm worrying too much and it's a non-issue.

d. It will take so much time to deploy this social business software that everyone will have already developed their space in the wiki and there will be little demand for the new tool.

3. We need PKM too, don't we?
I strongly believe that most people in organizations could use a little Personal Knowledge Management before jumping into Organizational Knowledge Management, yet talking about PKM is even less likely to be well received than KM.  How do I push forward with what I strongly believe in?

a. Go to the KM boss (my boss) and suggest a PKM workshop or online course (yeah, right... I must have lost my mind for a second).

b. Build a PKM module on my personal page in the existing wiki and point people to it  (add a link in my email signature as a starting point).  Don't tell the boss, just do it.

c. Mention PKM in every single conversation until there's a buzz around the term and the top leadership decides we need one of those (just kidding!).

Related Resources
  • Some lessons about capacity building in social media for development organizations in the South, January 24, Lasagna and Chips (blog)
    There is a simple diagram in the post mentioned just above that struck me as on the spot and also reflects my perspective on KM.  With KM and with social media tools, you can't build anything at the organizational level until you have a critical mass of individuals interested (practicing personal knowledge management and using social media for their own individual benefit).
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Saturday, February 05, 2011

KM Twitter Chats - Slow Motion Brainstorming on Storytelling

In the past couple of months, I've participated in a few Twitter chats run through the KMers group.  I haven't developed a strong pro or against attitude.  I like the idea of communicating with like-minded individuals who have similar professional interests but with whom I would otherwise have no contact through regular work-related tasks.  I still find them a little awkward.

Imagine a dozen people sitting around a table for a brainstorming session around a pre-determined topic. A facilitator welcomes everyone and starts up the conversation with a question. Imagine that instead of having to take turns to speak up, people are able to talk over each other, but everything is slowed down so that the participants are able to hear and comprehend what everybody else is saying.  There's a little more time to think about what to contribute to the conversation and you can respond to something that was said a minute ago rather than the last thing that was said without getting everyone totally confused.

I'll use the most recent KMers' chat on Corporate Storytelling and Knowledge Management as an example.

The 140-character limit forces has both advantages and disadvantages:
  • (+) You're not able to ramble on about an idea without making a point. If your 140 character message isn't clear on its own, people will just ignore it and move on quickly.

  • (-) Don't expect it to be more than a brainstorming session.  People will express ideas and share resources they're aware of, they may express agreement or ask for details, but there isn't time or space to go deep into anything.
  • (+/-) You're more inclined to turn your message into the equivalent of a movie tagline or a book logline. If your message is intriguing enough, you get a request for details.

  • (+/-) There is a "built-in" written record (transcript) of the conversation (keep that in mind when you're furiously typing a tweet).

  • (+) The conversation doesn't always end with the chat session.  Some participants in the chat may follow up with some additional thoughts or a summary of the chat in their blog (See Jeff Hester's blog post on Successful KM Storytelling).

  • (+) The chat's hashtag (#KMers) can be used at any time (beyond the specific hour of scheduled chat) to reach out to this particular KM community even if all the members of the community aren't among your followers.
Storytelling Resources: