June 28, 2022

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

Knowledge and the Ugly Bear

Knowledge and the Ugly Bear

“Why do people always want to design how people should behave, rather than enabling engagement?”

The question, which sounds as obvious as “how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll lollipop” was tweeted by David Snowden of Cognitive Edge from the Henley Knowledge Management Forum in the U.K.

It is questions like these that drive knowledge management, or “KM” professionals crazy. (Not just you.)

I first met David when I was on the KM team at Intel, and he was a KM thought leader for IBM. No question, social media, and in this case Twitter has made the world a smaller place.

We have all been forced into using systems that try to make us behave in a certain way, which is generally counter-intuitive. The system may be from our company or a company that we do business with.  In almost every case, the reason they are driving us nuts is that it should make it easier for THEM to do something. In fact, the Ugly Bear of Unintended Consequences rears its ugly head to make everyone’s life worse.

Enter knowledge management to tame the bear and enable your engagement into the process, not suffer through it.

Knowledge management is, to clarify, the practices of capturing, codifying, reusing and measuring how the information is applied. In my model, it also becomes a cycle, where the business must react to the measurements of how the knowledge is applied, because knowledge is a dynamic force that keeps evolving.

In a society where content is growing at a faster pace seemingly every minute, it makes sense that content is only as good as its ability to be applied.

Knowledge is different than just data. Knowledge is (arguably) information with application or context. It may be unquantifiable, but many elements of a lesson are able to be measured.  Interaction with step-by-step instructions solving a specific issues are a good example. There’s value in the steps and knowing how they are used.

Companies that have a web site with a carefully managed knowledgebase can leverage the shared community knowledge to be the subject matter expert on the web site, even if they are not the market leader.

Let me call that out again, the non-market leader CAN grow market share by storing knowledge. For example, the once little-known CNET tech news web site grew to selling technical specs to eCommerce sites and making millions. Smaller telecom companies became the market leader by becoming the information “go-to” source for their market segment. All they did was explain new technology at the lowest common terms.

You need to pay attention to how users interact with your content, and that means detailed analytics. Not just with which documents they use, but to determine what they are doing with the document’s content. In the past, I have found that pairing analytics with a third-party call center to confirm this information very useful in getting unbiased results.  Now, mouse tracking analytics may serve part of that need.

Armed with statistically significant data, you can then develop the knowledgebase to help the majority of your customers fall in love with you. If you can solve major problems with your content, and measure that content usage to determine what the next problem will be, then you can head off your customer’s issues BEFORE it haunts you both. That means customers will find the answers on your web site. If theyt do, why would they buy elsewhere?

But what if you were the customer: Why would you NOT want the information you need to solve your problem at your fingertips? Trust me, your customer sure does. That’s why it makes sense to support the resources to develop, measure and continue to develop the content and interface you need to become your market leader.

With one company in my past, we made every prospective employee write a step-by-step document of how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We taught step by step documentation writing to everyone in the company at all our locations. We shared the ownership of this project with everyone. Within a year, we went from 20 knowledge contributors to over 500 document contributors, and that included the administrative assistants. They learned information about the products and shared it.

For the record, yes, this start-up became the market leader.

There are a lot of good and nearly free platforms that can be used for this. What is vital is that your system is designed to engage your customers, not just the price tag. You can keep The Bear at bay. Every day analysis must be done on data usage and the system needs constant reevaluation that is based on data, and not a “gut feeling.”

After all, did you ever see what’s in a gut?

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