Zipline, for Better Knowledge Sharing Pt. 1
Nathan is in the Bay Area waxing game mechanics at Technology Services World. His stint on the Service Revolutions stage gave the Baxters an opportunity to chew on some old beef: knowledge management systems (KMSs).
Despite the potential for meaningful idea exchange — unlocking the intellectual capital and proprietary knowledge of the workforce — most KMSs simply don’t encourage employees to share their knowledge. In our experience, these systems fundamentally fail in reconciling convenience and reward. (Putting it mildly, KMSs are ******* inconvenient and unrewarding.)
Sure, any KMS must provide meaningful on-demand content. And it must be customized to the culture and motivation of its users. But game mechanics (and usability best practices) provide a few general insights on improving effectiveness of collecting knowledge by increasing convenience and reward.
We call this evolving list of KMS design principles “Zipline,” inspired by Robert De Niro’s supertechnician Harry Tuttle in the bizarre masterpiece Brazil.
Capture the Flash – Everyone is busy. Even the prospect of keying a 50 word insight is off-putting to a high-demand, high-value employee. Yet, meaningful microexchanges happen constantly. Thus, a KMS should accommodate even the tiniest sparks of genius. Tweets. IM slang. The thumb-gesture that follows “which way is the men’s room?”
Spread it Around – Despite the incredible value of centralized knowledge, it’s infeasible to expect the human animal to religiously transcribe their every knowledge sharing experience. A KMS should reach into the interactions of the organization and capture insights as they happen. This might be a dictation app on the company Bwackbewwy, a simple “promote this” button on an email thread, or a spider that crawls the company forums in search of particularly useful content. Adding content to the KMS should require no more information than generating the content in the first place.
Try Crowdsorting – With an increase in good content comes an increase in bad content. But any good system can separate the wheat from the chaff with a thoughtful rating / pertinence engine. To align these ratings with usability practices, attach the simplest-possible thumbs up / down to virtually everything — and appropriate button-clicks (like closing a window) for rating purposes.
Use the Buddy System – A wealth of insights pass between mentors and apprentices, and vice versa. This corporate symbiosis also begets a sense of shared responsibility. By overtly pairing colleagues — and assembling larger teams with coordinated objectives — users are motivated by their feelings of mutual investment.
Make ‘Em Proud – As a matter of framing, KMSs should play to the egos of thought leaders while encouraging the participation of new employees. A thoughtful reputation engine accommodates the lot. Points for every interaction, real-time leaderboards, and tangible goals ignite collaboration and competition. Additionally, closely connecting career development to KMS reputation blends the powers of social and professional recognition. Should meaningful knowledge sharing earn extra PTO? Hell yes!
Keep it Optional – It may seem counter-intuitive, but non-obligatory KMSs better reflect the principles of authentic engagement. At they very least, participation reflects a genuine desire rather than a begrudged requirement.
Watch the Clock – Compelling game narratives blend user-triggered and universe-triggered events, creating a rhythm of engagement. In our previous designs, we’ve broken these event types into “quests” and “missions,” respectively. A good KMS follows suit, offering increasingly difficult challenges to be completed at the user’s pace, as well as daily / weekly “lightning rounds” to encourage mass contribution to a particular topic.
We’ll keep this list growing (and shrinking, when we thrash our own suggestions). In the meantime, sharing your joyous or woeful tales of a KMS will fetch you some shiny +1s, courtesy of the Baxters.