Behaving Badly

I recently saw adults behaving very badly in God of Carnage.  And then courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera‘s iconic production of the Ring Cycle, I saw gods behaving badly, mortals behaving badly, giants behaving badly, dwarfs behaving badly … you get the picture.  All of this aberrant behavior started me wondering about how we factor user behavior into our knowledge management planning and deployments.  I suspect that most of us do our planning on the basis of archetypal users or personas.  With personas, we create imaginary users who embody a range of behavior, but often lack the particularity of individual users.  In the context of law firm knowledge management, we think of The Partner, The Associate, The Legal Secretary, The Administrator.  Of course, there isn’t a single person in the firm who acts exactly like one of these “users,” but that doesn’t stop us from relying on this fiction.  Unfortunately, the fact that our actual users aren’t quite like our design personas means that our planning may not properly take into account their daily behavior.

Now, all of this careful planning assumes that people will behave well (or at least rationally or predictably) most of the time.  But what happens when they behave badly?  You don’t think this happens?  What about the recalcitrant lawyer who simply will not fill out a profile page correctly in the document management system?  Or the person who routinely stores client-related e-mails in their Outlook folders without ensuring they are copied into the Firm’s record management system promptly?  After watching God of Carnage and Wagner’s masterpiece, I’m left wondering if we should do more planning based on the assumption that people will behave badly more often than not?

[Photo Credit:  kmevans]