Knowledge Management Practice
In the past 10+ years, there had always been a question in my mind, how to apply knowledge management in real life that make sense. Since 2015 I started to research how I can build a knowledge repository and practise KM. I have spent a few years in learning to build a portal. I cannot afford to buy one, or pay to build one as in the traditional approach. I wanted to find simple and affordable solutions from the same perspective of most normal people. I looked around for different open source resources hoping I can build one by myself, in a way fitting solutions to our needs, instead of compromising our needs to a system. As a result of this hands-on experiential learning, there were a lot of discoveries in my journey.
After a few years' practice for real life solutions, it totally changed the way I understand knowledge management. Now I know much better how to make sense of the whole thing. It was an unbelievable long journey - 6 years.
Recently I came across an article on Organizing Knowledge by Greg Wilson, which better explains my discovery, and resonates with what I experienced. It all relates to how the brain works about learning. In fact, if I read the same articles some years ago, I might still not having the same understanding as today, because I didn't have the hands-on experience yet at that time.
The article says
How students organize knowledge influences how they learn and how they apply what they know
which no sensible person would argue against it. The key words here is “organize knowledge”.
I also came across a YouTube video recently, by a smart and experienced speaker who mentioned something similar (refer to my another article on Learning and Structuring). It further supports what I learned and experienced.
It's About Structure
We normally make connections between different bits of knowledge, connecting the dots, and form structures that are correctly and meaningfully organized, which we sometimes call it make-sense. It becomes meaningful because it fits well into the structures in our brain. For the same reason, it becomes easier for us to memorize, and easier to retrieve. Those students who learn faster and better might have the talent to structure things in a better way that fits to their understanding. As a result, they can remember more, and make better sense.
Structure in the Brain
So what is structure in the brain. It is difficult to explain. Perhaps it is a kind of tacit knowledge, a secret in everyone's life which is difficult to describe in words. However, we cannot deny that this is actually how the brain really works. On the other hand, from practical experience, we also know that there are some tools we use to help us in this structuring process, which tell us something. Examples of these tools are:
- Create a concept map to analyze our own knowledge organization
- Analyze tasks to identify the most appropriate knowledge organization
- Provide people the organizational structure of a course
- Use of contrasting and boundary cases to highlight organizing features
- Make connections among concepts explicit
- Use of sorting on tasks to help organizing knowledge
These tools help organizing our knowledge, and transform the invisible to visible. That is to say, for more effective learning, we should learn how to organize knowledge in our brain.
It is About Getting Knowledge Organized
Not until my practice in BYOS, I started to discover the co-relation between organizing knowledge in the brain, and organizing knowledge in a system. As I started a few years ago learning to build my own system, I also manage content at the same time. These knowledge are what I considered important because I need them again in future (i.e. value in real life). It was very different experience comparing using a system and using only normal personal tools. The biggest difference is that, while building a system, I have to consider the content structure of the knowledge, evaluate which parts are important, and what is the focus. Then I would have to design in a way that fits my purpose of re-applying them in future. It is all about how I get things organized. In fact, it is the same thing as organizing things in our home, or document on our working desk in the office.
The design process is a great learning by itself, because analysis in details are made. Even though, we still make a lot of changes back and forth. In my own repository it went through a few versions already, and I still don't want to commit for the final version, and I don't think I should. Things change, and our focus will change too. It is also an advantage of my BYOS practice which allows me the flexibility to change, at zero cost. It is actually a build-experience-redesign process. It is like the "ideate - prototyping - test" stages in design thinking, which in my opinion is the most important part. In design thinking it is called iterative prototyping. In my practice, I call it BayGO, meaning Build-as-you-GO. It is just about how we normally think and do in life.
Using this method, everybody can eventually come up with a satisfactory design after a number of iterations. In fact, the more we work on this knowledge structure design, the more concrete this structure becomes. In other words, if we work on it on a continuous basis, our knowledge structure will also be continually improved and become better and better each day.
Making Knowledge Visible into Larger Structures and Complications
There is a distinct advantage organizing knowledge and structuring them using a system. It is a process of codification, allowing us to visualize the originally invisible structure. With a system, it allows us to create a even larger structure which our brain may not be able to handle. That is to say, the system helps us to handle larger and more complicated structures.
In addition, applying taxonomy and combine with some system features, I was even able to create some simple A.I. results. The system can automatically help me to recall another similar knowledge content of the same category which I have forgotten. This is another example and advantage of how a system helps to expand the power of the brain.
Additional IT Learning and Digital Transformation
One by-product of this BYOS practice is a hands-on journey of digital transformation. I have an IT background, but a 40-years ago background is obviously not helping at all in today's digital world. The BYOS practice drives me to catch-up and re-learn a lot of IT knowledge, which is good enough for my business and hobby needs. I build systems, but I am still not a programmer, and I don't consider I am qualified to be one.
As a matter of fact, most people think it is technical. In fact it is not. It is a matter of how the line is drawn when we consider technical. But it is the line that makes most people stop. Today things has changed. I don't need coding to build systems, and I don't plan to spend time to re-learn programming. I am willing to learn but just enough for my normal business needs. But then I found I could already fulfill 80% of what I want to do. This level of IT knowledge is not really technical. The word technical should be re-considered. In fact, this is the right level of IT knowledge for digital transformation for most people in my opinion, just enough for creativity and building simple digital solutions for what they normally need.
In my BYOS practice, the focus has always been about business and needs analysis, problem solving, solution design and user-experience, which are simply facts in life. It's not the IT skills but analytical skills that's important. But then it is also what's needed in a lot of other areas too.
Real Life Example
A video was recorded to describe how I structured a knowledge base, and some design philosophy behind. There is a small knowledge base demo system available for a little personal touch too.