ABCs of KMKnowledge visualization

Purpose, at the core of knowledge visualization [Knowledge visualization series part 2]

This article by Hanlie Smuts is part 2 of a series of articles exploring knowledge visualization aspects from an organizational perspective.

Knowledge visualization refers to the application of visual representation techniques from multiple visualization domains aiding knowledge-intense processes such as knowledge sharing among employees in an organization. By considering visual representations to transfer insights or to develop new knowledge, organizations must think about particular aspects related to knowledge visualization. This requirement for considering novel knowledge sharing methods is further emphasized by the shift to working from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. I shared the framework in part 1 of the series and include it here for context and to show the topic areas of the series of articles.

Key aspects for the application of knowledge visualization as an organizational knowledge sharing tool

Our focus for this part is on organizational purpose. The main driver of knowledge visualization at organization impact level, is the organizational purpose i.e. the reason why the knowledge visualization is done or created. Purpose talks to the required scope within the organizational body of knowledge that must be visualized with the aim to achieve transferring and sharing knowledge, as well as communicating ideas and insights. This segment of the knowledge visualization framework has two organizational impact levels.

Essence refers to the identification and utilization of the essentials, as well as their relationships, from a body of knowledge identified for visualization:

  1. Think about how much data, information and interrelationships between the two you have in your organization. For knowledge visualization in this context, focus on quality, rather than quantity.
  1. Focus on compressing the knowledge to be visualized and concentrate on the essence of what you as a knowledge visualization designer, wants to share and get across.
  1. Synthesize the knowledge that you want to share and remove the irrelevant and redundant content.

The second impact level refers to the cognitive process of knowledge transfer. This relates to the process of transferring knowledge from one part of the organization to another by organizing, creating, capturing or distributing knowledge and ensuring it is available for future users. Knowledge is created through social, collaborative, and cognitive processes. Cognitive psychologists noted that visual representations are informative, support the process of learning, and improve comprehension and recollection as visual information processing differs from linguistic information processing.

  1. Remember, knowledge visualization provides the benefit of visual communication where you may also include “emotion” e.g. advertising, change management.
  1. The human cognitive system has limits in processing complex information due to its limited capacity and duration of the working memory. If the visual-spatial system is used, the process can be improved.
  1. Provide cognitive support (e.g. visual metaphors, embedding details in context, showing relationships) to employees as users of the knowledge visualization, as the process of making sense of the knowledge, may result in the creation of new insights or “aha” moments.

Although organizational purpose is at the core of the knowledge visualization framework, always remember that the knowledge visualization aspects are interrelated and must be applied in the context of all the other drivers.

In part 3 of the series, I will describe the design principles framing the knowledge visualization.

Next part (part 3): Principles, framing the knowledge visualization.

Header image source: Gerd Altmann on Pixabay, Public Domain.

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Dr Hanlie Smuts

Dr Hanlie Smuts is an Associate Professor in the Department of Informatics at the University of Pretoria since 2017. During her tenure in industry, her role aimed to deliver consistent, customer relevance across all digital touch points, to empower customers through convenient and effective self-service, and to drive growth through personalised digital offerings. Through a deeper understanding of the digital and adjacent ecosystems, she championed transformation to digital and the need for collaboration in this context. Her thorough understanding of the digital and adjacent ecosystems also enabled her to implement digital financial solutions for the mass markets in South, East and West Africa. Her current research focuses on information systems and the organisation, with particular emphasis on digital transformation, disruptive technologies (4th Industrial Revolution) and the management of big data and knowledge. The combination of these research areas enables cross-domain research in the field of knowledge visualisation as an organisational tool, as well as collaboration between human and machine knowledge (artificial intelligence and machine learning) for knowledge-related work. Dr Smuts has published several papers and book chapters in her field of study.

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