Back in September of 2008 I mentioned this idea of “little KM” in a post called “Micro-blogging in your law firm?.” There, I wrote: little KM is about “how” and big KM is about “what.” Little KM helps people find the big KM.
The Small Stuff. By little KM, I mean meta data; but not the hierarchical, taxonomic stuff of older KM approaches. It’s not about asking your lawyers to profile, or select prescribed meta data, for their documents when saving them in a document management system. Rather, little KM is about on-the-fly, user-generated tagging, commenting, and rating. Little KM is also about self interest; and that’s important.
Little KM is not substantive. It points or directs people to the substantive stuff (the big KM). For example, if a lawyer tags a document with “best practice” or “model” it will probably indicate to others that someone thinks highly of that document. The same is true if a rating system (e.g., five stars, or “thumbs up”) is employed. Comments can also be helpful to note attributes of a document that are not immediately evident from the contents. For example, a lawyer may comment that a particular transactional document is favorable to a buyer, rather than a seller. That can help someone more quickly decide which among several documents to review when working on a new matter.
Self Interest. Altruism may be alive and well, but for the most part, we do things to help ourselves, personally. The good thing is that with little KM, the side effect is that it also helps others. When someone tags, comments on, or rates a piece of content (presumably to help themselves find, or make sense of, it later) others get the benefit of that person’s efforts. This is not to say, of course, that such selfless activities shouldn’t be encouraged. But, unless people see the personal value of using little KM, it won’t become all that it could.
Low Impact. For little KM to be helpful and effective, it must be easy to use and part of one’s workflow. If a lawyer must open a new application to tag or rate a document in a work product retrieval system, then it will seldom happen. Think of the online social bookmarking site Delicious. It allows you to bookmark websites and tag them with keywords.
The most effective way to use Delicious is not to add URLs on the Delicious website, but rather to use a web browser toolbar button (see above) that allows you to tag your current website. Here is a Common Craft video that shows how to use Delicious.
In the same way, little KM features inside your firm need to be easy to use. If they’re not, they will surely fail.
Is your firm using little KM? Do you have systems that allow lawyers to tag, comment, and rate the big KM?
LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms