Knowledge Management “Bucket List”

Blame it on the Oscars, but I’ve got movies on my mind. In particular, The Bucket List. For those of you who haven’t seen it, the “bucket list” refers to a list of things that two terminally ill men want to do before they “kick the bucket.” This got me wondering. If you had a limited amount of time in which to accomplish something useful, what three knowledge management projects would you tackle?

Here’s my preliminary list (and I reserve the right to revise it at will!):

1. Create an Electronic Water Cooler: Make a virtual place in your organization where people can exchange the valuable information that rarely makes it into formal memos or company databases. The water cooler might be a wiki or blog. It might be a Lotus Notes database. What it shouldn’t be is e-mail unless you have a great way of archiving and organizing the threads to make them available to all who need them. The other benefit of creating a virtual water cooler is that it can help consolidate and nurture communities of practice within your organization by providing members with a shared forum.

2. Teach Personal KM: If you can teach the knowledge workers in your organization to behave more like knowledge managers, you can create a great foundation for firm-wide KM efforts. If each knowledge worker intentionally created and organized a personal knowledge base, they would experience first-hand the value of well-organized information. And, once properly organized, this content could be available to be contributed to the firm-wide KM system. But even if you never get these contributions of content, by helping individuals organize their knowledge sensibly you help make them and the entire enterprise more efficient.

3. Freshen Your User Interfaces: Take a cold-eyed look at the user interface of your most critical KM systems and figure out what in the UI creates a significant barrier to entry. What changes can you make to the UI that would materially improve user experience? Remember, as users have access to better designed online resources for leisure activities, they come to expect more from their work resources and they are able to do more with those work resources. Jakob Nielsen’s most recent study of the benefits of UI redesign found that the average improvement in key performance indicators after redesign was 83%. In fact, he summarizes the phenomenon by saying “spend 10% to gain 83%. That’s a pretty good return on investment. (The study focuses on website design, but there’s much food for thought there regarding the UI of all your internal applications.) For further information regarding usability issues, see Nielsen’s articles on User Skills Improving, but Only Slightly and Evangelizing Usability.

So that’s my first stab at a KM Bucket List. What would be on your bucket list?

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