7 Steps to Building A Knowledge Map

This is a guest post by Manel Heredero, MEng. Manel is the founder of Evoca, a London-based consultancy firm helping organisations improve knowledge management and collaboration. Connect with Manel on LinkedIn. This post is part of our knowledge mapping series.

In the first article of the series we discussed the importance of capturing and sharing knowledge within an organisation or a community.

In the second article we discussed a few key principles, such as the difference between information and knowledge, or the importance of accessing knowledge instead of searching for it. We also explained knowledge assets and knowledge domains, and we used a real case study to help explain how knowledge maps work.

In today’s article we will build a knowledge map from scratch, and provide a step by step guide with which you can create your own.

How to build a knowledge map

For our step by step guide, we’ll be taking the organisation of ‘OuiShare Fest BCN’ as a case study, to understand how you can build and use mind maps as a useful planning resource within your company or organisation.

OuiShare is a think tank that focuses on collaborative consumption and the sharing economy. It is a community of 3,000 who get together around projects. In our case study, we’re focusing on the OuiShare Fest BCN, which is an annual three-day conference for around 700 attendees, held in Barcelona. Organising the festival involves around 30 people working at different degrees of intensity over a few months.

The work is divided into a series of departments and for this example we’ll focus on the work of the ‘sponsors’ team. The ‘sponsors’ team is made up of four members and only one of us was involved in the preparation of last year’s conference. Already here we identify a key element for our knowledge management initiative: institutional memory. When we start capturing knowledge assets we should pay special attention to doing it in such a way that it will be easy to find and reused by next year’s ‘sponsors’ team.

So, with this case study in mind, here is our step by step guide for creating a knowledge map, for both planning and longterm knowledge acquisition purposes:

Step 1. Identify your knowledge map topic

During the team’s first meeting, we would go ahead and open a brand new mind map within MindMeister. We name it ‘Sponsors’. This will be the domain for all of the knowledge associated with dealing with sponsors. We expect the other teams to do the same with their domains. For the time being, we will focus on only working on our map, and at a later stage we will start connecting this knowledge with other maps.

mind-map-step-1

Step 2. Preparing your first assets

You can begin adding assets to your mind map, before you’ve even started a project.

In our first meeting on gathering sponsors, for example, we could already define some of the things that we expect we’d be doing soon. For instance, we can imagine that at some point we’ll be delivering a presentation to the potential sponsors, where we’ll explain what OuiShare is, what the conference is about and why they should partner with us. For this, we could start by adding a topic (a node in the map) and call it ‘First Presentation to Sponsors’. This is our first knowledge asset.

We can always change this name in the future but for now this serves as a reminder for us to prepare for these inevitable presentations to sponsors.

mind-map-step-2

Let’s now find a few more assets that we predict we’ll be needing:

  1. Assuming that the sponsor finds our idea interesting, we will be asked to submit a proposal, describing in detail the value we offer and the amount of money that we’d be asking for
  2. If the sponsor likes our proposal we will then have to have a contract, or an agreement, between the parties.

And once the agreement is in place, we will then start delivering that value to the sponsors, whatever that is. For the time being we will call that asset ‘activities with the sponsors’.

mind-map-step-3

Step 3. Capturing the first knowledge asset

We have a list of sponsors from the previous edition, plus a list of companies we have shortlisted but have not met yet. The first thing we do is draft the email to sponsors, introducing ourselves and proposing a meeting to tell them about the fest and about the fantastic opportunities available for potential sponsors. So this is the first knowledge asset we’ve actually produced: the introductory email.

This is an asset we had not originally anticipated in the map but that we now believe is worth including, as different people on the team will be reaching out to potential sponsors, including the teams of future editions, so it’s worth capturing and sharing. Note that we are not producing knowledge assets for the sake of producing them. We are doing our normal daily work and we capture those assets as they become available.

We therefore go to the map and choose where to add the asset. As we believe it fits with the group of activities related to ‘approaching sponsors’, we decide to re-arrange our topics slightly. As you can see in the below image, we have created a new branch called ‘Approaching Sponsors’ and we have moved the ‘Introductory Email’ and the ‘First Presentation to Sponsors’ to inside that topic. This example shows how versatile mind mapping can be, when it comes to rearranging knowledge.

mind-map-step-4

Step 4. Attaching knowledge via documents or Google docs

Now that we have a place for the ‘Introductory Email’, we only have to save a copy of the template email in the ‘OuiShare Knowledge Map’ folder, contained in a Google Doc, for example. If using a Google Doc, simply change the sharing settings so that your relevant team members can collaborate on a shared document and add their suggestions.

mind-map-step-5

 

Once you have this shareable link, simply copy and paste the link into the relevant topic within your mind map, via the URL feature in the sidebar, as highlighted below.

mind-map-step-6

Step 5. One asset may have many locations

Some assets do not belong only in one domain. For instance, when the time came to prepare the first presentation, one key asset we used was the ‘General OuiShare Fest BCN’ presentation, prepared by the general coordinator.

By using the general presentation as the basis for our work, we not only save time, but we also ensure consistency throughout the entire team. Yet again, we adapted the knowledge map to reflect this:

mind-map-step-7

 

This asset (general presentation) is the perfect example of an asset that is present in many different domains, not only in ‘sponsors’. This is extremely valuable, since this is the best way to make sure that everybody in the team has the latest version of it. This is a very important step, anytime you capture an asset, spend a couple of minutes thinking in which other areas of the maps it should be present too.

Step 6. Connect your different domains

As we discussed in the first article, mind maps allow us to create an ontological navigation of the different knowledge domains.

In our example, there are a couple of designers working on the branding and design of the conference. They too develop knowledge maps to capture useful knowledge assets and this knowledge map is used across the entire team: ‘Design Resources’.

mind-map-step-8

 

This is an extremely valuable domain, as we’re all accountable for producing material to send out to sponsors, speakers, the press, etc. For this reason we (the ‘sponsors’ team) have added a node on our knowledge map that leads directly to the ‘design resources’ mind map.

mind-map-step-9

Step 7. Make your knowledge available remotely

At OuiShare we work entirely via the cloud, for projects, for communications, for governance and for sharing knowledge.

For this reason, MindMeister is the best suited mind mapping platform to capture and share our collective knowledge, as it’s entirely cloud-based and geared up for collaboration. The administrator has set up the whole team on the MindMeister ‘team/members’ environment, meaning we can access the shared knowledge, whether we’re in the office or working remotely.

We use G Suite for our project management and file storage, again available via the cloud, and we’ve created a dedicated folder, called ‘OuiShare Knowledge Map’, for all of the relevant knowledge assets. All knowledge assets are saved in this folder and published in their respective mind maps, via the shareable links (as shown above).

Since we’ll be sharing the knowledge maps with other members of the organisation and people outside of the OuiShare community, we provide the relevant individuals with permission to edit, via the sharing settings on the MindMeister lower tool bar. Everyone will then receive an email stating that the mind map has been shared with them, and including a link to access and edit the mind map.

mind-map-step-10

So there’s our step by step guide for creating your first knowledge mind map. 

To recap, the 7 steps are:

  1. Identify your knowledge map topic
  2. Identify your first assets in the map [even if you don’t have them yet]
  3. Capture the knowledge assets as they become available
  4. Attach those assets to the map
  5. Copy the assets wherever you see fit
  6. Connect your different domains
  7. Make your knowledge available remotely

I hope you’ve found this step-by-step guide to creating knowledge maps useful. The most important task of all is to maintain awareness. In our daily work we are continuously generating material that is useful and worth capturing. If you and your team capture and share those assets as they’re created, you will make capturing your company or organisation’s collective knowledge a great deal easier. 

As always, if you have any comments or questions, get in touch via the comments below and let us know how you get on with your knowledge map!

 



  • Pedro Costa Junior

    Congratualions, very usefull. It will help a lot