2Know Magazine: Sharing KM Knowledge
2Know: Sharing KM Knowledge
May 2016 - Magazine No. 200
May 2016 - Magazine No. 200
Edition:
Written By (Staff)

In celebration of our 200th issue, I wish to share with you two articles I remember vividly. A few years ago, I was working as knowledge manager in a communication organization and found myself facing a new challenge: writing for the company website and being responsible for the website's service area. During this period, the organization opted to apply the 'self service' approach in order to enable the customer to receive service at any time and place without having to wait or depend on a representative. This approach was considered at the time revolutionary and is now implemented by many organizations who "share" the information with the costumer thus enabling him/her independent conduct.

This might sound like a simple step, yet it led to dilemmas and challenges regarding the website's Knowledge Management:

How does one make the knowledge simply, easily and comfortably accessible for our customers?

Should the company website and KM system present the same content?

 

What can we do in order to bridge the gap between the organizational language and the customer's language and terms? The content must obviously be based on the customer's point of view, since the customer does not encounter these service situations on a daily basis. Furthermore, the math in this case is pretty simple: our goal is to promote usability on behalf of the customer by providing a quick and effective solution (since the customer is most probably impatient). This should be done by offering concise information which does not involve stages or complex issues, reflecting the stages the customer will experience in order to coordinate expectations and promoting a sense of capability to easily reach the solution. Otherwise, there is a risk that the customer will abort the page and the loss will be double: the customer will call customer service and she/he will refrain from using the website as a means of service.

While searching for a course of action, I stumbled over two articles which helped me formulate my plan for performing this task: "psychology in the field of design" by Ella Entes and "UX in the real world" by Maya Fleischer.

 

Psychology in the field of KM

This article discusses the challenge organizations face which essentially a dilemma is regarding the manner in which companies can reach and convey their message to customers. Nowadays, in an age which features many means of communications and forms of media, it is still important to remember our objective as an organization:

To be there= to exist, to make our customer community a faithful one.

 What makes a website one that communicates with its target audience, one that conveys the message the organizations wishes to get through and develops a community of faithful users? The basis for any website is human behavior, psychological responses to situations, information, colors, shapes and messages.

Hereby are a few ground rules I derived from the article:

Creating trust=providing customers with security, enjoyment and curiosity regarding the future.

Creating a recurring pattern= content patterns, the user usually has an easier time dealing with known and familiar content.

A recurring use of pictures in order to enhance the concept and message we wish to convey.

People's reading pattern= people don't really read, they scan the page.

UX in the real world

One of the dilemmas, as I mentioned above, was the need to bridge the communicational gap derived from organizational and professional terminology. This article demonstrates how to bridge this gap through User Experience (UX):

A product is "conceived" due to a need and an aspiration that this product will indeed answer the final costumer's needs. Yet there is a long road from the initial need to the final product can substantially affect a product's success. As knowledge mangers we are required to present solutions for rising needs. The manner solutions are presented is important and helps simulate the real product. Therefore, our approach to the solutions we suggest should be as serious as the final product.

The article presents several advantages of visual presentation: our customer will have an easier time understanding our precise intention (unlike words which can be more freely interpreted); an image similar to the actual product will lead to expectation coordination; we can perform an early usability test; we can locate additional needs or discard redundant elements before we invest time and money in the actual product development; we can converse in a common language with our customer; a customer's enthusiasm towards visual presentation is usually high and leads to his/her connection to product implementation; we (knowledge managers) are perceived as more serious and professional. How true!

An intelligent use of these tools can generate a positive UX and can help sell the product. In some cases, the linguistic gap can be bridged-over through visual means thus coordinating expectations and creating a common language.

In conclusion, I have no doubt that these articles can be of great service and assist in other dilemmas we face as knowledge managers. When I faced a new challenge, they certainly helped me to focus my approach and preferred course of action, although the road is never ending as is the journey.

  1. The first issue was published in 1999. How was the magazine initiated?

 In 1999, ROM was still involved in a partnership with Dr. Edna Pasher Consultants, Inc. One of the managers there partners suggested we send marketing material to a mailing list they held. I realized that it would be easier to send material with a fixed format. It's comfortable for readers and the need to share tips or professional reviews help us as well to persist over time.

  1. Is there a professional approach which the magazine attempts to promote? If so, is the magazine a suitable format for this goal?

The magazine is a platform for promoting the idea of KM in Israel and all over the world, in which is an agenda ROM is a leading force. When we began with the magazine, we didn't even consider Google and so 'accidentally' this diverse knowledge accumulated in the magazine made ROM a top search result without cheating or using promotion services. We didn't expect the magazine to serve as such a substantial promotional factor in regards to organizations approaching us. ROM has a certain orientation which differentiates us from other KM companies, since we focus on the methodological side of the process which is manifested in the development and sharing of KM methodologies. Therefore, it is merely natural that these subjects will be elaborated on in the magazine. Nevertheless, we do occasionally dedicate articles to SharePoint and its implementation in favor of Knowledge Management.

  1. What central changes in KM during the last 17 years this magazine exists can you point out?

When we started out, there were two aspects: very substantial organizational culture and beside it the technological aspect of the process. After two-three years we realized that these elements must be merged in the work process and later on when dealing with content: catogarization, processing, editing etc. Over the years, new fields related to change management and social media with all its implications emerged into the scene. Yet what really surprises us is that when we review our older content we conclude that although there has been a certain advancement and refinement of various aspects, the basic methodologies remain the same. Very little content has become irrelevant. The reason we examine the older content is that we are methodically translating it: the monthly magazine is nowadays published in English while our older material is being translated simultaneously. The translation process also allows us to refine the Hebrew content and adapt it to current reality without ignoring the reality in which the article was originally written. Only rarely do we need to rewrite a term. It is surprising that the magazine's content reflected in the knowledgebase is still relevant.

  1. Have any of your predictions regarding the field manifested? Have some trends evolved differently than you expected?

ROM's position as a leading company has its impact on the field. We have been ahead of the game in certain cases. For example, in 2001 we set up a professional portal for Cumbers yet heard of professional portals only nine months later. We also developed an approach which views KM as a triangular relationship between organizational culture, computerization and work processes back in 1999. In 2005, I met David Gurteen who shared his understandings that this triangle is the KM world's newest trend, while we have already implemented it both theoretically and practically.  The full lifecycle approach to lessons we developed back in 2003 is still being developed nowadays. On the other hand, we were certain that tag clouds would catch on- yet they didn't. We also believed that sharing knowledge with clients, alike the manner in which companies receive and utilize the wisdom of the crowds, would catch on- yet it hardly did.

  1. Can you try to presume what central areas will be discussed by the KM community in the 400th issue?

I sure hope that by the 400th issue sharing between customers will be substantial and that KM will be a known field/profession and will be taught in universities. Thus, more audiences will deal with Knowledge Management, which in turn will lead to KM writing targeted at a wider audience rather than exclusively at knowledge managers. Nowadays people who are not doctors consume medical services; why not hope the same for KM?

  1. Is there a certain issue you especially remember?

I mainly remember the centennial issue. We decided that due to the occasion, this issue will not be written by us. Instead, we asked four clients to describe Knowledge Management from their perspective. I remember this issue since it was a break from the usual routine in which we generally tended to focus on the content and bottom-line practicality. These celebratory issues by nature focus more on ROM and less on the actual management of knowledge, and so we try to keep them to a minimum (once in a hundred issues seems right).

  1. The magazine has changed its appearance and design several times. Please share with our readers: what leads to a change of design and when do you understand that this change is needed?

The change of design occurred due to three transitions: 1. When ROM's professional content was entered into the website and the magazine became part of the website. 2. When the website was updated. 3. When we wanted the magazine not to be read as a Word document but as an actual magazine which can be printed. Changes in design are usually the result of feedback from ROM workers.

  1. You wrote two blogs which were published in the magazine. Can you tell us of them and provide us with tips on writing a professional blog?

I decided to write the first blog in 2007 when writing blogs was still a new matter. I wanted to become more professional in this field without the blog's content colliding with the magazine's content, and so I wrote on managing knowledge workers. In order to ensure persistence, I decided in advance that the blogs will be published as a book and indeed after 50 posts I felt that the subject has been thoroughly discussed and published the book, which lead de facto to the blog's termination. In light of recurring questions regarding the blog and due to a desire to enter the field of SMB (Small and Medium Businesses) I began to write a blog (concurrently published in The Marker) targeted both at the traditional crowd of KM workers and additional audiences that weren't previously exposed to the field yet we believe can gain added value from it. My tip is authenticity. Although personal writing doesn't come easy, the way to improve is simply to write.

  1. So, if you address different audiences…please share with us your vision for Knowledge Management?

Knowledge is one of the most meaningful and valuable assets in the 21st century. We deal with leveraging knowledge since it provides such a substantial value it would be a shame to see it go unutilized. Managing knowledge in a methodical and organized fashion using the methodologies we offer is far more efficient than what organizations do using merely common sense.

10 In conclusion, can you give whoever is thinking of publishing a professional magazine a useful tip?

Two tips:

  1. a) Use a fixed format with regular news segments or term/tips columns. These are 'anchors' that will help you persist.
  2. b) I do not recommend publishing theme-oriented issues rather issues combining a few subjects together since the readers are always interested in a variety of subjects and a fixed transverse format ensures the magazine has something to offer for everyone. In hindsight, the fixed format also offers added value: a database systematically organized by subject.

Ending this post, I want to share an additional understanding. While the magazine is first and foremost a marketing magazine yet we quickly understood that writing down the knowledge, processing it and completing it using other sources also contributes to our own professional development. At the end of the writing process, the writer knows more than he/she knew facing the blank document.

 

  

Michal’s article inspired me in three 3 fields which are actually my three areas of profession. This led me to understand that all creative fields operate similarly:

The writing process is similar to a choreography creative process, working from the inside outwards; if during the creative process I consider how it might seem to spectators my inspiration will instantly disappear. Yet if I initially create freely I can later edit, alter and refine the choreography for public display. I am a firm believer in inner beauty radiating outwards.

Also as an instruction developer and KM consultant, my writing process is similar to other writing. Occasionally I find myself reaching out for the right phrasing or explanation. This is the point when (according to Michal) one should free the mind from the reader and write from the gut. Only then can we move on to the next stage, i.e. considering others, appearance, rules, display etc.

 

What does this all have to do with Knowledge Management?

Knowledge Management usually deals with content. What will we manage if not content? I believe that we should invest in our writing as it is the most basic phase of our work process. Even when writing purely professional content, if we first write what lies inside and only then edit, the content will be more interesting and authentic. Furthermore, we won’t get stuck as much.

Imagine writing down your dreams; how fascinating and enticing.

The summary you are reading was written using these two phases as well!

 

Michal’s article contains great writing tips from which I have personally benefited. I recommend it to anyone writing either professional, artistical, instruction or marketing-oriented texts wishing to invest in their authenticity and flow.

This process is fertile for both writers and readers.

Thank you, Michal!







Written by Rom Knowledgeware
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