ABCs of KMKnowledge visualization

Knowledge visualization, it is about the context [Knowledge visualization series part 5]

This article by Hanlie Smuts is part 5 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. According to the MIS Research Centre, our brains are wired to rapidly make sense of and remember visual input – the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text, and 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual (diagrams, charts, drawings, pictures, etc.). In this context, knowledge visualization may be particularly beneficial where team members need to define interaction norms while developing mutual trust such as in the early stages of inter-organizational collaboration. 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 target audience – the employees you are creating the knowledge visualization for. The target audience impact level includes knowledge visualization elements related to the target audience in the organization, namely the employees. Elements impacting the employees in the organization includes the need of different employees e.g. individuals, functional teams, project teams, etc. Knowledge visualization must address the need from the particular employee or employee group it is intended for. Related to audience need, is audience engagement as the interaction with the visualized knowledge should enhance and facilitate learning engagement for the employee or employee group. Context and accessibility are also elements that impact the employees engaging with the knowledge visualization as organizational boundaries and the particular scenario that must be visualized, is a key consideration. Accessibility is also a key enabler as this element needs to ensure that an employee can place the knowledge visualization subject area in context and interpret it within the organizational context.

  1. Make sure that you present both the detail required for the knowledge visualization, as well as the overview of where the detailed portion fits in. Imagine an employee needs to learn about their contribution in a cross-functional business process. Make sure the employee understands where their part of the process fits into the whole.
  1. Context in an organization may also highlight the combination of internal and external factors relevant to the organization that may impact its products, services, business models, operating model, etc. The employee in our example may engage with outsource vendors as part of their business process execution. Knowledge visualization can be central in the early stages of an outsourcing arrangement as it not only supports planning the initial stages, but also fosters mutual understanding and trust building.
  1. In organizations we deal with individuals, functional teams, project teams, general staff, management, etc. Think about your particular target audience when creating your knowledge visualization.
  1. These target audiences also engage and interact at different levels of abstractions or relevant to their particular focus area. Ensure that your knowledge visualization will enhance and facilitate learning engagement through their interaction and experience, taking cognizance of their prior knowledge of the particular knowledge subject area.

In part 6, the final part of the series, I will look at knowledge visualization case study examples and illustrate the principles we have discussed during the series of knowledge visualization articles.

Next and final part (part 6): The proof is in the pudding – knowledge visualization types and examples.

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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