Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bar bets and knowledge management

In 2009, Google surmised that smartphone users were whipping out their iPhones to settle bets over such diverse topics as which body part is most amputated, who starred in what movie and how many ounces are in a half pint. They dubbed this search trend the Bar Bet Phenomenon.

This trend bodes well for the future of AEC knowledge management. Seriously.

Think of it: For knowledge to be propagated in an architecture, engineering or construction firm, people need to be in the habit of searching for information they do not already possess.

Imagine you are working on a stairwell for a school in Poughkeepsie. Imagine you need to know the fire code or lighting specifications or structural steel load capacity. If someone in your company has already documented the answer to your question, you can cut your workload by opening that intelligent file and reaping the harvest of its knowledge.

This is the sort of thing Doris Pulsifer thinks about in her role as leader of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill’s knowledge management team. I’ve been revisiting her article, “Watch Your Language: Five Information Management Terms I’d Like to Replace,” and this week’s installment addresses the topic of bar be—I mean, knowledge management.

Term No. 4: “central filing system” is really a “global repository”

Paper-based definition: The central file was the place office librarians created to store anything and everything that came their way. Once filed, information was unlikely to ever again see the light of day, because so few people knew where the information existed, and it was hard to retrieve if you were anyone other than the librarian!

Digital 1.0 definition: To replace the central filing room, document management systems create digital vaults – highly structured electronic filing repositories – to store corporate information and control access. Users were required to follow strict filing hierarchies to allow information to be retrieved when needed. The firm’s knowledge was safely locked away!

Digital 2.0 definition: Good search trumps good filing. When you have flexible tagging and index-based search capabilities, anyone in the office can – and will – benefit from the collective knowledge of your organization by searching a global repository for whatever information they happen to need at the moment, just as they might ask a colleague, “What do you know about this challenge I’m facing?” Importantly, information is no longer restricted to those who already had knowledge of it. Instead, it benefits everyone in the organization and can be re-used to help advance the business.

The key to recycling knowledge in a firm, then, is good search capabilities – and the habit of using them to seek not just what you’ve forgotten, but what you never knew! Doing so could help you win more than bets.

No comments:

Post a Comment