Familiar Problems in Documenting Your Personal History
Something I’ve been thinking about a lot is capturing some of my life stories so that my four kids can become more familiar with my personal history — and put some of my crazy antics into chronological order. My daughter came across an article on FamilySearch about focusing your writing efforts on a single question each week for 52 weeks, and has started the process. As a kid I never kept a diary, but I had something called a Book of Remembrance that included school awards and other items of significance, such as when I had a couple poems published in a book when I was in 3rd grade (I think it was called Breezes from Diablo, and I found a copy of it years ago). Of course, I’ve attempted to jot down personal histories over the years, and even sat on the board of a company (StoryOfMyLife.com) for many years with the stated goal of making it easier for people to capture their personal histories through writing, images, and video.
And for all the tools and technology, putting your personal history to paper (or screen) is hard.
And if it’s that hard to do in our leisure time, reflecting on our own life stories, think how much harder it is to capture essential knowledge from our professional histories. While many of us are years away from retirement, most have had the experience of changing teams, changing roles, or changing companies — and with it we have all witnessed one of the most flagrant gaps in our corporate knowledge management schemes: losing knowledge due to these changes.
Similarly, most of us remember that in years past, when you joined a team or started a new role, part of your employee on-boarding and training was to receive "The Binder: The Source of All Collective Knowledge and Business Process Wisdom."
Both of these are clear examples of the difficulties in transferring our knowledge, expertise, and information assets back and forth. Upon leaving a role or an organization, it is an enormous, if not impossible task to process everything about your job and capture it within one or more documents — as it is an enormous, if not impossible task to join a company or team and assume you will learn all you need to learn about the new role from the on-boarding binder placed in front of you.
The problem is: how are we protecting our greatest assets — the skills, knowledge, and experiences of our people?
The next generation of knowledge management platforms need to take into account the various methods through which we share these skills, knowledge, and experience: documents, process flows, interviews, Q&A, video and audio recordings, and our various social activities and other indicators.
But that’s the easy part — collecting information, in all of its forms. The hard part will be to organize it, correlate disparate artifacts into meaningful streams of information. Through the automated classification and tagging of content — print, video, or audio — and subsequent translation using data mining and machine learning techniques to identify patterns, our knowledge management systems will slowly begin to match the capabilities of the human brain and our ability to discover deep insights into the knowledge we hold.
We live in an exciting time as many of the core technologies that will make this possible are beginning to be made available. But it’s still going to take tremendous effort. And intent. You have to make it a habit. Just like transferring work knowledge, your personal history logging begins with capturing the raw data, tagging it, and organizing it into some semblance of order.