AM08 2008 START Conference Manager    

Designing for Knowledge Worker Informings: An Exemplar Application of Sense- Making Methodology

Patricia Souto, Brenda Dervin and Reijo Savolainen

ASIS&T 2008 Annual Meeting (AM08 2008)
Columbus, Ohio, October 24-29, 2008


Designing approaches to support knowledge work and knowledge management systems (KM) has been documented to be critical and costly. Research has shown that knowledge workers frequently evaluate KM efforts as missing the mark. They are too often left without the help they need for constructing knowledge solutions and outcomes -- the product requirements of their jobs. Knowledge workers point to failures not so much in being able to find and retrieve information but rather to communication gaps: lack of training and communication; cumbersome systems; systems that do not address work demands. In addition, they point to system edifices built on hierarchial categories that are anchored in top-down accepted organizational divisions, person identifiers, and characteristics of tasks, domains, and situations rather than their informing needs in complex, changing, and sometimes elusive situations. Commentary and research increasingly converges on a call for alternatives particularly amid the proliferation of extant KM approaches using myriad electronic technologies. The purpose of this paper is to provide documentation of an exemplar study focusing on the challenges of doing user research in such a way that it usefully informs the design of knowledge management (KM) systems intended for use in knowledge-intensive work in the for-profit context. To this end, the paper is presented in a series of six sections: 1) Special contextual demands of knowledge work; 2) Need for addressing knowledge work as on-going creative processes; 3) How most approaches to user studies miss the mark; 4) Using Sense-Making Methodology as an alternative research approach; 5) Exemplar application of Sense-Making interviewing to a study of knowledge creation work; and 6) Conclusions.

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