How do teams capture knowledge about ideas and solutions in a way that is readily available throughout your organization? This is a question that challenges leaders everywhere, whether you direct a tech startup or a high school's English department. It is perhaps even more important when you are embarking on something new: rolling out a new initiative, starting to integrate new software and technology, trying out new devices. The last thing you want is for your lessons learned to get lost.
If you’re problem solving or simply brainstorming, quickly capturing your ideas and easily finding information that already exists is important. These goals form the basis of a methodology called Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS), created by the Center for Service Innovation. KCS is used in institutions and organizations worldwide, including numerous Fortune 500 companies.
At Education Elements we use KCS methodology to build and maintain a base of knowledge about our products and practices used for internal projects as well as for external information. We practice daily KCS as part of important work processes, and as such, capturing knowledge in the moment is key.
Using four practices -- capture, structure, reuse, and improve -- KCS ensures that knowledge is documented and is readily reusable in any work process.
Lesson plans, student playlists, tech how-to instructions, or even communication guides are all examples of important work products that require current and continuous documentation. KCS advocates that there is no better time to capture or reuse your knowledge assets than in the moment a problem is solved or an action is taken. This is when information and ideas are fresh, and your words and descriptions are most clear.
With KCS processes, templates are used to make it more convenient to capture relevant details, without stringent or polished standards. This enables knowledge to be easily and seamlessly captured as a regular part of a work process. Templates typically include simple structures using headers or sections to capture most relevant information. For example, for a project to identify appropriate digital content for specialized learning needs, an instructional technology specialist could use a template that includes the headers "Content Provider”, “Curriculum Type”, “Curriculum Speciality”, and “Modalities.” The main idea is that templates allow for easy-to-create and comparable documentation around shared problems or tasks.
You should store your documentation in a central location such as a wiki or website, where it is searchable from different devices and easy to find. When it comes to finding existing documentation, "searching is creating" is a slogan integral to KCS. Whether you're a school principal or a software developer, you're likely facing challenges that others have experienced before. KCS holds that most topics are not new, and documentation likely already exists for the topic you’re searching. Before you jump in and write something new, search first to see if it exists.
KCS philosophy also requires that, when a relevant document is found, if it is not current or accurate it should be updated (and dated accordingly). Searching and improving on existing documentation may seem like an obvious first step, but it is often overlooked without a process in place to remind us. If nothing is found after you search, then you should create a new article or document.
By creating an information repository that is central and searchable, and by using the four practices of capture, structure, reuse, and improve, KCS can be helpful to any institution or organization. It's proven extremely useful for my team’s work in helping our students and teachers troubleshoot technical errors. I believe it could prove useful to any community of practitioners that tackle similar challenges -- consider teachers within a high school department, or principals across a school district. When KCS is practiced as part of routine work processes, a robust and up-to-date base of knowledge is organically created and available in your organization.
Generally speaking, KCS methodology provides simple and easy-to-implement processes to begin a journey into knowledge management. For those interested in diving deeper, there are additional processes that form the "Evolve Loop of KCS," which further an organization's capacity to manage and improve content knowledge.
Image source: http://www.serviceinnovation.org
Yet ultimately the power of KCS is in its simplicity. By implementing simple routines around documenting best practice, old and new problems can be solved more efficiently by all members of a team or organization.
More about KCS and the Center for Service Information is found here: http://www.serviceinnovation.org/kcs/