Taxonomy in the New Era: Utilizing AI and More for an Efficient and Agile Process
1 June 2023
Taxonomy, derived from the Greek words taksi (arrangement) and nomos (method/law), is a systematic classification of objects, subjects, or fields. It lies at the core of many knowledge management processes we oversee. When characterizing an organizational or professional portal, a knowledge manager, insight databases, external websites, or shared folders, we are tasked with classifying and organizing their content worlds.
Surprisingly, despite being a fundamental process, it often becomes cumbersome, lengthy, and even Sisyphean. It combines "objective" methodological principles, rules of thumb, and variable "subjective" organizational aspects like culture, work habits, and business needs. This process deals with complex knowledge and many sources such as documents, folders, Teams channels, etc. Consequently, numerous individuals are involved, and traditionally, the process comprises several steps and resources. These include examining existing media, identifying recurring and obsolete themes, conducting interviews with knowledge experts, understanding habits and challenges, creating classification trees, comparing trees from different employees, identifying gaps and discrepancies, formulating initial drafts of proposed taxonomies, validating and obtaining approval for them, and so on. (Preparing the change management plan for taxonomy assimilation and utilization is beyond the scope of this article.)
Fortunately, new tools that have recently emerged in our realm allow us to reduce the time and streamline the process significantly.
AI tools like ChatGPT enable us to save substantial time and resources. By inputting topics, terms, folder titles, and documents, along with organizational emphasis, needs, and challenges, we can "throw" them into the tool and request a proposal for organizing them into categories. This action alone can save countless hours of work, investigation, and discussion.
Moreover, we can ask the tool to present several alternatives, explain their logic, outline advantages and disadvantages, and even identify problematic issues that may not fit naturally into any category. While the response from AI tools will inevitably be imperfect, it provides a solid foundation for discussion and accuracy. We can first engage with knowledge experts and hold focus groups with process users or customers if necessary.
Collaborative whiteboard platforms, such as MIRO, facilitate effective and enjoyable focus groups through various capabilities they offer:
Clear Visualization of Hierarchy, Categories, and Subcategories:
These platforms provide numerous options for presenting relationships, structures, and hierarchies. They are a clear, easy, and more convenient alternative to traditional Excel. A straightforward approach is assigning each category and subcategory its distinct color.
Dynamism: Grouping categories and subcategories and dragging or copying them to the desired location is all it takes. The focus group process often involves moving subcategories to different categories, creating new types, changing names and titles, etc. Collaborative board platforms allow these adjustments to be made quickly and easily, further optimizing the process compared to Excel.
Collaboration: Primarily, these platforms foster collaborative thinking and work, enabling multiple individuals to contribute simultaneously.
Task Building/Exercises: As a result, these platforms facilitate the creation of significant tasks or exercises for the process. They aid in understanding existing habits, identifying differences between various groups and employees, and validating proposed taxonomies. For example, one activity involves a "computerized notes workshop" where participants organize topics under main categories based on their understanding.
Alternatively, one can check and validate the proposed hierarchy by asking each participant to place fundamental documents/topics from everyday life (more or less standard) on the proposed board and assess its convenience and clarity. Voting functions, available on most platforms, can also be utilized.
Undoubtedly, these new tools help save considerable time and resources. Moreover, employing advanced tools in the taxonomy formation process and beyond contributes to an innovative and exciting experience. It may foster a stronger connection with these tools, inspiring additional creative applications. If you have not yet embraced these new tools, now is the opportune time.