Month: January 2016

The Information Maze

Maze Information Space

Whilst using search engines for online web searches or in the workplace, our hidden mental models of the information space play a part in how we search. They may also influence how we feel when searching and ultimately, our expectations.

The mental models we hold of the information space can be hard to verbalize, but are crucial to understand in order to improve our designs of information systems and improve information literacy.

Poor information search is not just about time saving and efficiency, there is evidence in the literature that poor information searching has led to missed business opportunities, missed evidence of fraud and caused fatalities.

One method to elicit responses that may otherwise not be verbalized during an interview process, is to stimulate discussion through visual metaphors. Some studies have given cameras to participants to reduce the researchers involvement, although this does not always give useful data. Other methods use a series of photographs as primers to choose from.

I conducted a research study last year with eighteen staff within an oil and gas exploration company. Several photographs were presented to participants who were asked to choose which one best represented their view of the corporate information space and why. For example, one photograph illustrated an untidy bedroom, another supermarket shelves. Virtually all participants chose the maze (photograph introducing this blog) as the photograph that best represented how they view the corporate information space.

Using a constructivist approach (the theory is in the data rather than having an initial hypothesis), a number of themes emerged (Table 1).

Table 1 – Why people chose the maze as the corporate information space

Table - Information Space

One implication of the research is that it may present opportunities for enterprise search deployments. There may be a requirement to provide an overview ‘a bridge’ of what is contained in a corpus, collection or search result in order to provide better navigation. It is interesting that many users feel there is a hidden design behind their corporate information space, without necessarily knowing what it is.

This may present further research opportunities to gain a deeper understanding of the mental models of professionals in the workplace. By enriching our understanding of the deep assumptions held by searchers (that they may not be able to articulate through normal requirements analysis), we may be able to improve our information strategies and systems.


Deep Learning in Organizations

Deep Learning in Organizations

The term ‘Deep learning’ has been increasingly used recently to describe how organizations augment their learning by applying machine learning techniques on large volumes of information (big data) to discover patterns. Building on the 2015 article ‘emergence of the corporate brain’, this article applies a systems thinking approach to balance the technology focus on deep learning, with one that focuses on people, how the organization thinks deeply. The focus is on Enterprise search & discovery capability although some concepts may be transferable to other areas.

The fields of information searching (people centric) and information retrieval (technology centric), although porous, have begun to converge. However, there is a dearth in the research and practitioner literature for how these two fields relate to organizational learning as applied to enterprise search & discovery capability.

Click here to View PDF in Slideshare

Socrates is cited as saying “I know that I am intelligent because I know that I know nothing”, “I cannot teach anyone anything, I can only make them think.” He recognized the importance of ‘learning how to learn’, our higher order executive processes of planning, checking and reflection – thinking about thinking. Simplifying, metacognition is both knowledge of cognition and regulation of cognition, it is the literacy of self-awareness and has been linked to increased intelligence. Metacognitive capability includes the extent to which we can ‘listen inward’ and monitor what we think (our inner voice) for the tell-tale signs of cognitive biases and closed mindedness, i.e. are the skills being applied likely to lead to a desirable outcome. Metacognition empowers us to learn, can support transformational change and the good news is that we can improve our metacognitive capabilities.