Zodiac of Knowledge Capture

The start of a new year gives me a rare chance to measure my knowledge capture output over time. I maintain electronic journals for the various projects I am driving, business units and functional areas I support, and people I work with. This results in a hundred or so separate MS Word documents, with generally the same format – still, it would be quite tedious to take a word count each week to check my output.

However, at the beginning of the year, I start a new folder and a new set of Word files – which means that after week 1, I have the easiest scenario for figuring out how much data entry for the week. And, since last week was typical, I set out to total up my data entry – starting with the personal journal files, but including other media:

Format     Words
=====     ======
MS Word   15,300 in 22 documents
Notes      3,000 in  4 documents
Blogs      3,100 in  6 entries in 4 blogs
MS Excel     500 in  5 spreadsheets
Notepad      500 in  4 text files
Mind Maps    300 in  7 maps
Twitter      900
Power Point  700 in  5 presentations
Wiki         500 in  2 wikis, 2 different dialects
------
24,800 words in 1 week

Hmm, that sounds like a lot – according to this guy,  I could / should be writing eight books per year …

But then I though of all of the other formats that I was not counting … texting via phone, IM over eight different accounts (thanks, Pidgin!), emails over four different accounts  (and four different clients). And what about the code? That wiki item at the end got me thinking; most wiki syntax is faux-HTML, right? But I’ve also had to do work just this week in HTML, CSS, ASP, SharePoint, VBA, dokuwiki, TiddlyWiki …

This whole exercise conjured a series of images in my mind, avatars for a new Zodiac of Knowledge Capture …

Sisyphus: The never ending task of documentation. At times, my “backlog” gets so big, I just file a big chunk away under Future Projects …

Hercules: Prodigious output should be the expectation, not the exception. The world / your work group is ever-hungry for more structured knowledge, and they don’t want to wait thru the backlog – they want stuff now!

Job: Patience is a must – you will write stuff and get no response for months … but every once in a while, a glimmer of hope. Had a conversation this week with someone who noted my Emotional Intelligence post from 14 months back (!). They had seen a class offering at a local college, and we ended up talking about how applicable the skills are to our jobs.

Mandelbrot:  You need to be facile when plotting and navigating many levels of abstraction. The reader needs to absorb slowly, peel the onion one layer at a time … but they better be able to drill to the required level of detail!

Pavlov: Repetition – Don’t be surprised when you have to repeat, repeat, repeat, over and over, until you get folks used to the idea of going to the wiki, searching the portal, reading the manual.

Deming: Constant Improvement must be in your mind all the time. There is always a better way to get an idea across (which relates to …)

Xerox: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Let’s not lose sight of the goal – capture and transfer knowledge . So, if you see a more effective method of communicating – learn from it!

Tufte
: Clarity in communication is everything. You might think this one should be Strunk, but Tufte drives for clear and effective communication graphically / pictorially, as well as in the written word.

Muse: Don’t rule out creativity; you are competing in the market of attention, and you need to capture the mind before it’s ready to receive. You also can’t always rely on the Same Old Stuff when capturing knowledge; keep experimenting with different tools, take the best, leave the rest.

Cthulhu (CNZ?): Develop skills at multi-tasking, maintaining many threads at once (or multiple arms). Multi-platform, multi-editor, multi-language, multi-markup, etc.

Heisenburg: Be aware that documenting processes can be like measuring them – you will probably introduce some change. This is “stealth process improvement”, and might even be manifest laziness (it’s easier to document a simplified process …)

This zodiac needs a twelfth sign – any ideas?

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James MacLennan

... is the Managing Partner at Maker Turtle LLC, a digital consultancy focused on creating value in ways that align with your strategy and drive engagement with employees, customers, and stakeholders. He is an active creator, providing thought leadership through on-line & print publications, and public speaking / keynotes.