If you’ve been to the gym lately, you know a lot of people are all-in on their New Year’s resolutions to get in shape and improve their health. If you’re not one of them, we promise not to judge you.
In fact, some of the latest research shows that beginnings such as the first of the year (or month or week) are great opportunities to reflect and implement changes. (For more on this check out When by Dan Pink or this video.)
So as we step into 2019, we asked our team of knowledge management and content sharing experts for some tips and resolutions that they would implement to improve information sharing and knowledge curation. Enjoy!
Develop standardized taxonomies – and use them
If you’re working on military or government agency knowledge management projects, make sure you have a standardized taxonomy of functional and geographic categories/tags and that you apply them to everything you produce.
There are a couple clear knowledge management benefits to optimizing your taxonomy:
- Discovery: A good taxonomy enables easy navigation (drilling down) and builds a strong foundation for targeted discovery through search. It also enables users to follow and connect similar pieces of content as they search for related items and related information
- Workflow and Processes: Taxonomy allows you to easily assign work responsibilities, because it creates natural orientations for teams to organize around. Having both functional and geographic taxonomies allows you to organize your team along whichever axis best suits your needs and helps users find the information they need – regardless of whether they organize their teams the same way you do.
- Ben Schwartz, Director of Content
When collecting and curating information, keep your users, their needs, and their pain points top of mind
People in government agencies are busy and often working under time constraints. They need to be able to quickly find information that is relevant to their efforts and that augments what they are already doing. Information that doesn’t answer the question in front of them is, ultimately, just a distraction.
Similarly, if you can provide technical expertise that they need to complete the mission, then you’re adding value. If you’re just replicating what they are doing, then it’s wasted effort.
When cleaning up, organizing, and curating disparate data and knowledge sources, make a commitment to putting yourself in your end user’s shoes so you can focus on the efforts that will make a difference to them. Take the time to understand them, their organization, their missions, and their pain points, and serve from that perspective.
When you make their reality your reality, you’ll deliver what they need to make quicker, better decisions and avoid getting bogged down with irrelevant information.
- Ben Schwartz, Director of Content
Reimagine the way you present your data and use it to tell your story
In 2019, rethink the way you visualize your data and use your geospatial information. After all, your data is more than numbers or points on a map – it’s a way of telling a compelling story to advance your mission. There are hidden relationships that can be unlocked in order to find trends, forecasts, and answers to difficult questions, and there are a lot of tools that can be used to reveal those relationships. It’s just a matter of reimagining the way you look at your data.
When presenting a bunch of spreadsheet data in a report, ask yourself if the presentation tells the story and is easy to grasp at a glance. Wouldn’t an infographic or data visualization help your upper management understand the issue faster, so they could use it as a talking point with their bosses?
Data visualization can make information easy to understand rather than getting lost in a spreadsheet. A good test is to look at something for only 5 seconds. Does the information you want the user to know stand out? Is it easy to grasp so they can communicate it accurately to other stakeholders?
If you’re discussing a complex topic or story, is a static map what you really need? The data behind maps is often so rich that a lot of it can get lost when it is locked up in a static product. There are certainly use cases for static maps for briefings, off-line presentations, and low-bandwidth environments. However, it can be more enlightening to put data into an interactive environment such as a dashboard where you can see the relationships with other data. This approach can also broaden the ability for users to leverage the data in different ways and make decisions at a glance.
As you look at leveraging all your geospatial data in 2019, make sure it stands out and supports the story you are sharing.
- John Steed, Director of Geospatial Services
Don’t let fear of failure dictate how you operate
Looking around the government, I see a lot of organizations operating out of fear.
Managers write reports to avoid trouble. Staff work under inefficient bureaucracies and with old tools because “it’s the way it’s always been done,” and try to avoid drawing attention to what they are doing out of fear someone will shut it down.
Unfortunately, we rarely see people taking risks or looking for innovative solutions to problems. They take the long way rather than taking a risk that might not pan out.
But there are some organizations willing to take risks and pursue innovative ways to move forward. And in almost every case, the new way of doing things is really hard to accomplish – but pays huge dividends.
A good first step might just be asking for a different perspective on how you organize and curate your data and institutional knowledge. Or looking at a different way of organizing your reports and presenting information so others can make a difference.
Either way, it starts with a commitment to innovate and try new things rather than operating from fear.
- Andrea Castle, Data Curator
Resolve to make ongoing improvements
Here’s a secret. I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions.
While I understand using a calendar date as a point of reflection and resolve to make improvements in your life, I feel this should be done around other significant events – the start or end of a project, a birthday, an anniversary, or any date with significance. Reflection about past performance and how to improve moving ahead should be done regularly, and not relegated to December 31st each year.
Make regular reflection and improvements throughout the year. If you want to change an aspect of your work performance, then develop a strategy and implement it right away. Or look for milestones and opportunities in your work to reflect and make a change.
Many projects have a post-mortem where you analyze what you did, what went well, and what could have been better. But what about the concept of a “mid-mortem”? Take a pause in the middle of the project to make sure you’re on track, and look for adjustments that need to be made.
For example, if you’re producing reports for teams in the field, are they being used? And are they providing the information that people need? Is the format of the report working, or could it be improved with some data visualization?
The key is to look for continuous improvements at appropriate opportunities rather than waiting for a big beginning or final finish point.
- Tyler Wilson, Program Manager
Need a fresh perspective to help you organize, manage, curate, and share your institutional knowledge?