In the previous blog in this series, I discussed how the ServiceNow knowledge base can resemble the prisoners' dilemma, due to a bad incentive structure and discussed ways to change the incentive structure to help users make choices that benefit the knowledge base as a whole. However, there's an underlying assumption in the metaphor that users are only self-interested, and this selfishness is part of what brings about the poor incentive structure. With any faceless technology, there's always the threat of users losing sympathy for the other users. As a Knowledge Administrator, it's important to make sure that users are aware of their other users. By making users sympathetic to their fellow users, the misaligned incentive structure may evaporate entirely, solving the prisoners' dilemma scenario without needing to directly change the incentive structure at all.
How are People Self-Interested?
How Prisoners are Only Self-Interested (Prisoners' Dilemma POV)
How Users Are Only Self-Interested (ServiceNow POV)
How might this happen in a real knowledge base scenario? Are we assuming that all knowledge base users are just jerks who only care about themselves? Is this model realistic for a real-world knowledge base?
Probably not to the full extent of this example. However, it's possible to imagine a scenario where users don't think of their fellow users as much as they should. With any faceless software, it's easy for users to forget the other people behind the scenes.
How Can Knowledge Admins Deter Self-Interest?
Good User Buy-In
"What's in it for me?" - Make Sure People Know the Correct Answer
Envelop High Standards Within the Company Culture
You've Users Interested in Others - Now How Do You Keep Efforts High?
Now that you have users thinking of the entire knowledge base, everything's well and good, right? Maybe not. Imagine this scenario - a user is excited about maintaining the high standards of the company, and searches the knowledge base for his answer, even though it might take longer than emailing his coworker. When he searches the knowledge base, he finds it littered with outdated, and factually inaccurate articles. "Why did I bother searching the knowledge base, I had to email a coworker, anyway. Next time, I'll just email the coworker directly."
In the next article in my series, we'll talk about using Kaizen principles to continuously improve your knowledge base, to help keep users thinking about other users in the knowledge base.
About the Author
Will Fehringer is a consultant in our Richmond, VA office and has over 4 years of consulting experience, working with clients in government, banking, and consumer packaged goods industries to deliver Lean, Agile, customer-driven solutions. Will has a passion for working with team and program levels to help bridge the gap between business and technology.