"We are drowning in information and starving for knowledge."
—Rutherford D. Rogers, Yale Librarian, 1985
Knowledge is information you can apply to solve a problem. Data gets organized into information, information into knowledge, and knowledge into wisdom.
Because there is so much information coming at us, if we can't structure and organize it into formats we can apply to solve problems or achieve goals, we'll never turn it into applied knowledge where it can be used to solve particular problems or improve production, or reduce risk.
Peter Drucker, who was writing about knowledge management in the 1970s and who coined the term, "knowledge worker," states that if we apply knowledge to tasks we already know how to do, it is called it productivity. He states that if we apply knowledge to tasks that are new and different, it is called innovation.
With the increased competition and rate of change accompanying globalization, the importance of obtaining, sharing, and retaining knowledge among mobile workforces is even more important to companies than before.
Knowledge management is the science of collecting information, categorizing it, and structuring it to make it available for the purpose of improving productivity and enabling innovation. Management is the process of doing that efficiently and effectively. The goals of knowledge management are to promote, gather, filter, organize, and provide relevant, quality information and knowledge to professionals in a timely and user-friendly manner and to transform information and intellectual assets into enduring value.
Knowledge Reuse and Knowledge Transformation
Over the last decade, much more emphasis has been put on not only capturing and defining content, but making it more usable by others and for other purposes. Significant investment has been put into learning management systems, which have established a standard for content interoperability, like (SCORM), which, as any standard should, accelerated the development of applications that "plug and play."
More recently, research and development has been put into the management of learning content, which has evolved standard practices that will allow a piece of content to be reused in a variety of ways, thus making deployment of the content more efficient and cost effective. If you monitor this trend, as people such as Bryan Chapman have, you will notice the industry moving toward a reusability model in order to increase efficiency. However, to realize the full effect of this content reusability approach, more research and development has to be put into the transformation of content into multiple formats.
This is where the learning/content management industry is headed. It has evolved from:
a) single-function, single-purpose tools for capturing content, to
b) applications that manage the interaction between the learner and content, to
c) systems that allow content to be freed up and reused in a flexible manner, and ultimately to
d) systems that allow that content to be transformed/repurposed/re-presented into new products that also be can reused.
One only has to look around at the introduction of new tech for telecommunications, mobile learning, distance learning, and multifunctional applications to see the constant need to transform current information into new formats to make it available on the latest information access network. People will need to access information from a variety of different sources.
It is not enough to make products you can use and reuse via a specific delivery channel. You need to be able to transform them into multiple representations that can be accessed through a variety of different channels. The secret to doing this in an efficient manner is to create a single-source repository for the master content, and then make the creation, maintenance, and updating of that single-source content as simple as possible.
Implementing this single-source approach will not be easy and may not be embraced quickly. This is because it involves a whole new way of thinking about training and performance support materials. Most companies have developers that create training materials on a boutique-basis. This is commonly done to allow the trainers to customize the content and create unique training experiences.
However, this approach is doomed to failure once you think in large terms. Clearly a factory model is better suited to allow for single-source content creation and large-scale production of multiple training formats. A factory model is a well-designed system that allows for efficient, cost-effective production that meets specific high standards in a consistent and continuous manner. In areas where compliance is critical, a factory approach will increase the level of compliance and quality assurance, while decreasing the amount of risk.
This trend toward single sourcing, reusability with knowledge transformations leads to the "Training Factory" model to establish a system to facilitate content capture, to organize information into knowledge structures, and to automatically generate outputs in multiple formats.
Princeton Center for Education Services, Inc., has designed a process that enables companies and training consultants to establish their own internal Training Factory. Using the ExpressTrain Suite of tools, trainers can automate the generation of multiple training and performance support materials from a single-source repository, structure core content by knowledge types, and define custom templates for training, reference, documentation, and assessment purposes.
ExpressTrain relies on content reusability to create a rapid development and updating process. It comes with an ROI calculator to determine what savings can be realized by employing this approach. An ExpressTrain Training Factory automatically transforms "learning content" into multiple formats, including instructor-led training, Web-based training, e-learning, performance support tools from user manuals to quick reference guides, and verification tools such as checklists, quizzes, and tests. This can be done in minutes, not months. Furthermore, the ExpressTrain Process is built on MS Office, so runs on your desktop.
Dr. Peter Rizza is founder of the Princeton Center for Education Services, www.princetoncenter.com, www.expresstrain-ts.com, 609.737.8098.