This has got to be one of the KM evergreens of the Big Data Deluge age: how to synthesise ideas in the best (quickest?) possible way – for others to find, absorb and enjoy them.
Because, let’s face it:
We’re all time-starved…
We’re all shortening our attention span by the day – hmmm, what are we talking about here? Sorry gotta move on to my next appointment…
We’re all ever more connected using social media, interactive devices, networked softwares, networking apps, and even good old fashioned face-to-face events etc…
So we’re all suffering from filter failure, ever more congested with information coming our way from all these online and offline (human) connections – even if social media (and particularly Twitter in my case) help us filter that information.
One side of that coin is thus how we filter information – that’s the demand side.
The supply side is about adopting a good information synthesis routine and transmission etiquette to make it easier for others to find, filter and factor information – that’s what I’m talking about here, in relation with making knowledge travel.
This ties in nicely with a recent post from ever-excellent Duncan Green’s ‘From Poverty to Power‘ blog, about ensuring people read research reports, where the author lists all sorts of research outputs that could nicely complement the release of any report that ought to be read and acted upon…
The issue: people have to find that information that you’ve come up with, but they’re also flooded in information processing armageddon, so what to do?
Sort information processing out by acting on three different dimensions of information creation and sharing:
- The content itself (the data)
- The forms, channels and spaces you use to convey that content into information
- The environment in which you get people to find and use that information (the knowledge ecology around you)…
1. On the content itself:
- Don’t compromise with quality, as it’s what builds your name and the long term interest others may have in what you’re saying, writing and doing…
- Be genuine – it makes your content stand out as uniquely interesting. It’s like a good quality arthouse movie and its distinctly subjective touch vs. a bland Hollywood movie that is produced to relate to the lowest common denominator between people around the world…
- Write concisely. Short sentences; with bullet points; no jargon;
- Read and edit, read and edit, read and edit. Strip it bare, to the max;
- Test your content on others, get your formula right, sharpen the angles;
- Add illustrations and media that reinforce your point – it makes mental images and associations easier. Use smart infographics, creative visualisation and solid information architecture;
- Write with an active tense, tell a story, reveal the promise and also the action that you ask of your audience;
- Ask questions, invite people to come back with their experiences and their other questions; pursue a quest together…
- Tag, meta-describe, curate that content, so you make it more accessible, findable, usable at all times.
And at the end of the day, bullet point #1 matters more than anything else: don’t compromise with quality!
…needless to say, I need to do more of that myself with this blog lol ;)
- On the channels & spaces to convey the content:
- Systematically provide a summary of anything that is longer than two to three pages (we really have shortened our attention span, it’s a pity but it’s the case all the same);
- Perhaps provide a tweet to link to your content and connect – still wondering why the hell you should be on Twitter?
- Write a blog post with your personal slant to that content, where you can highlight the stuff that really matters in the content you release;
- Spend more time formatting, packaging, repurposing content than you have spent producing it – consider creative ways of bringing that content about: whiteboard videos, theatre plays, flash mobs, presentations on a napkin, co-created prototyping etc. etc.
- Use the channels that the people who should read your stuff use – be it obscure up and coming geeky social media, Twitter, blogs, an organisation’s intranet, emails, discussion lists, face-to-face events…
- Try a new channel every time, to see how it works…
The point is: creative, purposeful content should be brought out through creative purposeful channels.
- On the environment – the knowledge ecology around it:
- Build trust up, down and onwards… Develop a rapport with people that care about your work (engage, engage, engage, reply to posts, post yourself, reply to comments, make new connections, share resources with them, bring them in your work and conversations, welcome new people and questions, explore together, have fun, have fights, remember what it’s like to be humans together)…
Work the net: Involve ‘connectors’ and mavens (according to Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point), so they can spread the word, influence specific spaces and people and help create a real buzz… and get your network to show the importance of your work and grow the shadow of your jointly co-created content… This is why collective initiatives like the Knowledge Sharing Toolkit are valuable (and read a very interesting conversation about this and re-creating the wheel on Ian Thorpe’s blog and on Nancy White’s blog).
- Test the speed of your network – not like an internet speed test, but rather to find out if most people that are in your knowledge ecology are rather slow-paced or high-octane. Perhaps they react better to long pieces read at leisure, perhaps they prefer staccato style communication, with elevator pitches and tweets only because they don’t want to spend time absorbing longer pieces.
- Invite, gather, cherish, process the feedback you receive from the people and groups in your knowledge ecology, and mix it with your next batch of ideas… keep the conversation going like a snowball rolling, each time accumulating more and more matter around yet going faster and faster to the point…
That last bit – the knowledge ecology (oh 2011! Yes, this is another evergreen topic) – really is the crux: you don’t get the ecology right, you don’t get the (political) economy right and no one reads your content, let alone use it.
Taking a step back to look at the bigger picture, we could think of… the Highslow pyramid/hierarchy of information needs… But I’ll come back to this some other time…
So far, does this echo your gut feeling? The signals you’re getting around? Your aspirations? Your practice? Your lessons?
What is the next stage? Where do you strike a balance given the shortage of time you’re also suffering from? What do you see as trends on this horizon?
If you answer, make it quick please, I need to move on to my next task ;)
Related blog posts:
- Harvesting insights (4): Making knowledge travel?
- Use PACMAN to beat information overload and fix filter failures!
- What is good in a project?
- Blogging for what? For reflecting, for sharing, for learning, for synthesising, for…
- Social media: why bother? A French misunderstanding
- Engagement and deeper connection in social networks, a dialogue with Jaume Fortuny