Sunday, November 20, 2022

Crowdsourcing content

Organizations create content regularly to train their staff. Content creation is a complex activity with several stages:

  • Analysis
  • Conceptualizing
  • Creation
  • Implementation and
  • Measurement

Training content is very structured and contains activities and assessments which help in measuring the progress of a learner. It can take weeks to create a good training program.

Trainings are usually conducted for:

  • Orientation and Onboarding
  • Product knowledge
  • Compliance
  • Leadership
  • Sales, and
  • Quality control

The aim of these is to improve efficiency and performance, reduce errors, motivate employees and retain them.

Types of knowledge to train employees

Knowledge is categorized into 7 types and sometimes 10 types. To understand the idea of knowledge loss and the importance of crowdsourcing content, the below 3 types of knowledge are of significance.

  • Explicit knowledge

    Knowledge is explicit if it can be easily documented. It can be found in technical and policy documents. They are written down in the form of rules or SOPs and are used to build training programs.
  • Implicit knowledge

    Knowledge is implicit if it is learnt on the job. It happens when workers discover new methods that help them work efficiently with fewer errors. It is not written down in documents, but it may be shared between workers when they interact.
  • Tacit knowledge

    Tacit knowledge is an intuitive knowledge gained by a worker from many years of experience and is influenced by incidents in their life or previous employments as well. Conceptual understanding, Creativity and Gut-feeling are examples of tacit knowledge.

Cost of knowledge loss

We now know that Implicit and Tacit knowledge are shared orally and not recorded in writing anywhere. So, when people stop interacting, the flow of knowledge also stops. This can happen when workers move into higher positions, take up different roles or when they leave the company. Workers do not always find time for mentoring sessions. Mentoring sessions also do not guarantee full transfer of knowledge. Knowledge is lost when workers move from one role to another or from one department to another. The loss is greatest when they leave the company.

This real life incident that happened a few years ago is worth noting. There is a company that manufactures agricultural machinery. The top management found that 20% of its workforce was retiring in the coming 2 years. These workers had joined the company soon after they graduated, about 30 years back. The knowledge gained by workers over the years would soon vanish. So they asked them to create documents to record as much information as they could. It was humanly impossible, yet, they agreed to try. It was possibly the only thing they could have done at that time. The effort was too little, too late. The price of knowledge in niche businesses is very high and a new employee may never know why things are done the way they are, if it were not recorded.

Content crowdsourcing ideas

When a purpose is met from public contribution, it is called crowdsourcing. The term which is commonly associated with funding can also be applied to content. We will look at two ways in which this can be done. The first is AI generated content and the second is User generated content.

AI generated content

Most companies use chat as an official communication channel. Members in a chat group discuss topics that are relevant to the group. The groups are used to make announcements and post updates. Employees use these groups to ask questions and get answers. An example of this is a customer support chat group. The wealth of knowledge in these chat groups is very high. A knowledge base can be built using an AI-driven bot that extracts content from these chats.

Below are the steps a bot may take to do this. One of the main tasks of the bot is to map a question with all responses that come after it.

  • When a user makes a post, the bot first determines if it was a question. This can be done using NLP.
  • If it is a question, the bot can save it to an FAQ repository
  • The bot listens for answers to questions in the repository for a specific period of time. This could be a few hours to a couple of days. Let us assume it is 48 hours.
  • After this period, the bot will then consolidate all responses into a readable format and save it into the repository. For example, {Question, Response summary, Confidence, Optimistic response, Pessimistic response}
  • Whenever a question is asked, the bot will refer to the FAQs first. If an answer is available, it will show it to the enquirer. If the enquirer is satisfied with the answer, the bot will not post the question into the chat. If the enquirer is not satisfied, the bot will post the question and listen for responses.
  • The bot may not find an accurate response within reasonable time. In such cases, it can ask the enquirer if they themselves have found any answers outside the chat. The bot may ask the enquirer to add the answer for others benefit.
  • The bot will also allow users to manually answer old questions to which it is no more listening.

A flow chart of such a system is shown below:

Crowdsourcing from chat - AI bot flowchart
Crowdsourcing from chat - AI bot flowchart

User generated content

When employees themselves develop content in order to share it with others in the organization or group, it is referred to as user generated content. The organization must select a software that can help employees make content submissions. It should then be able to serve this content to other users. The ideal software that can handle these types of tasks would be a Learning Content Management System or LCMS in short. Companies may choose to build the software or buy one off-the-shelf. There are open source LMS that can work together with other free web apps to achieve the same objective. This will require some online searching to find the best fit.

Types of user generated content

While there are several types of content that can be generated by employees, the easiest to create are the following:

  • Audio

    The easiest format to use for this purpose is audio. With audio, the user does not have to worry about appearance or presentation. It is also easy to re-record. When workers discover new ways of doing things and wish to share this with others, an audio narration would be the fastest to do. Submitted audio tracks can be analysed later.
  • Video

    If the narration must be accompanied with visuals, videos are a natural choice. This is useful when there is an environment or a physical object involved. For example, a manufacturing process or the servicing of an equipment is better explained with a video.
  • Image and/or Text

    When the content being created is related to a physical location or equipment but does not involve movement of any kind, it is best to use images and text as a combination. For example, if an employee wants to show a critical component in a machinery, they could take a photograph of the part and place a text label over it.

Ways to encourage user generated content

Here are some ways to encourage employees to generate content:

  • Discuss benefits: Highlight the benefits of user generated content to employees and get their alignment on the initiative. Employees are more likely to contribute if they know how it will improve the knowledge and skills within the organization quickly and in turn improve work efficiency.
  • Create a process and allow time: Create a content generation process with appropriate templates that define the content format and size. This will make it easy and uniform across the organization. Allow employees some time every week to generate content. To simplify, create a list of topics and allocate it to each employee and follow up regularly on the allocated topics.
  • Motivate employees: Reward programs and recognition motivate employees to contribute content. These could be cash, redemption points, 'likes' from the community or any other form of recognition.
  • Make improvements: Study the progress of the activity on a weekly basis and identify the bottlenecks. Make continuous improvements to the content generation activity until the process stabilizes.
  • Find easily available tools: If you don't have the right software, start off with easy to use tools that are freely available like Google forms. Google forms allows respondents to attach files to it. There are chrome extensions which allow audio to be recorded, attached and played / previewed on Google forms.

Knowledge is the new currency!

Industries are changing by the minute. New knowledge is being continuously created formally and informally inside and outside your organization. The fact of the matter is 'knowledge is money' and it can be stored in the form of content. So, how knowledge rich is your organization?

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