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Knowledge Management: Using Design Thinking to Go from Insights to Innovation

In an interactive session at KMWorld 2018, Euan Semple, director, conference chair, and author, Euan Semple Ltd., led attendees through discussion exercises and other activities to apply design thinking to relevant and real knowledge needs within their organizations.

The 22nd KMWorld conference is co-located with Taxonomy Boot Camp 2018, Enterprise Search & DiscoveryText Analytics Forum ’18, and Office 365 Symposium.

Semple covered the essential principles, procedures, and tools leaders need to innovate in their KM initiatives, including insights definition, ideation, disciplined collaboration, and experimentation/execution.

According to Semple, the five key principles of design thinking include are Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test.

In creating a successful knowledge management program, said Semple, it is important to:

  • Design services to meet user needs—and not organizational convenience.
  • Keep testing your riskiest assumption with real users.
  • The unit of delivery is the empowered multi-disciplinary team.
  • Do the hard work to make things simple.
  • Start small, optimize for momentum and learn from user feedback.
  • Budget for continuous improvement.
  • Make things open, it makes things better; use tools from the open internet.
  • Value shipping over documentation or RAG status.
  • Use technology in small pieces, loosely joined; and take advantage of constant commoditization, continuous deployment.

Often, KM is seen as overhead and hard to justify, but it must be presented as what it is: a problem-solver, something that makes life better for everyone, said Semple.

It is also important to keep KM focused on addressing concrete problems,  so it is not viewed as an abstract concept, advised Semple, who encouraged attendees to use design thinking to solve real-world problems.

While design thinking has been described as the “human side of KM,” Semple also questioned that description, asking, “How can KM be anything else?”

During the session, Semple broke attendees into working teams, and asked participants in the session to define a problem at their organization.

Problems that were shared included difficulty locating correct information when needed within a large organization; bringing disparate data stores together for common governance, data quality, and access; getting user buy-in for a new KM program versus people keeping their own systems and procedures; and encouraging users to deploy new tools appropriately.

Each group then selected one problem to collaborate on and help creating steps for its solution.

Many speakers, including Semple, have made their presentations available at

KM World 2019 will be held November 5-7, 2019 at the JW Marriott in Washington, DC, with pre-conference workshops on November 4.

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