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I1. Flexible Information Organization Individuals and groups of knowledge workers can develop useful methods of organizing the content that informs and stems from their efforts. Product teams can envision functionality concepts that could allow workers to flexibly apply classification schemes to key interaction objects and categorize information in data repositories.

How do targeted knowledge workers and organizations currently organize information in its physical form, in interactive applications, and in shared repositories? How might your team’s application concepts support these existing practices while at the same time providing relevant new opportunities to classify and categorize valued content?

The organiza�on work, planning a large clinical study, can have as much to do with its success as all of the hours of lab work that follow...

Examples from three knowledge work domains: A scientist is organizing clinical samples in her analysis application before she starts another round of experiments in a large research study. She creates groupings that will allow her to easily select a series of tests for the same clinical subject and visualize them as different phases in the same time series (see illustration). An architect defines a classification method for a project’s material attributes in her building modeling application so that her team can organize material options as they are added to the system. At a high level, her team has decided to categorize materials primarily by the building areas where the will be used, and secondarily, by color. A financial trader quickly browses a market information feed, applying tags to news items that he sees as potentially relevant for his firm. He knows that when colleagues search the same feed, results that have been tagged with categories by any trader within his organization will appear at the top of the list in an attention grabbing format. Organizing information into useful and usable schemes can be a primary skill for knowledge workers. Workers’ practices may contain specific tasks or even entire activities dedicated to the act of organizing data and other artifacts. The specifics of information structures can vary widely within a domain or profession (B1, B2), with different individuals and organizations categorizing their content to reflect different conceptual models (C6) and modes of working (A8). Product teams can envision functionality concepts that flexibly support workers’ own information organization efforts (I2, I3). These functionalities can have numerous uses, such as offloading memory effort (E1, E2), supporting cognitive tracing (H), and promoting implicit communication (B5, C7, G4, J1). For known, defined schemes and categories, teams can envision a starting point of information structure, or a set of structured options, that users might then customize to meet their own local, top down needs (C8). Additionally, teams can envision bottom up organization methods that could be integral to workers’ usage of certain functionality concepts, allowing users to apply meaningful categorization “along the way” to accomplishing their day to day goals (G1). When product teams do not actively consider support for flexible information organization in their application concepts, individuals and organizations may be forced to change how they work in order to obey the implicit structures of resulting products (A4, K). This adaptation process can potentially lead to confusion and error (C9, G3), as well as to workers creating and performing excessively effortful workarounds to keep information organized in a manner that suits the established realities of their practices (D2, D3). See also: A, B4, C5, E, F, I


More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications for knowledge work:

Clinical Scientist

Who generally defines the organizational schemes and standards that people currently use in the work practices that your team is striving to mediate? Are there both top down and bottom up sources of standardization? How do these standards vary within your targeted markets? How have these schemes evolved into their present states over time? Historically, what forces have typically driven updates?

Right now I’m crea�ng a new set of samples in our informa�on management tool in order to increase the volume of data collected for our lab’s current project...

How frequently do classifications and categorizations change? How do targeted knowledge workers’ different roles and goal orientations currently drive different uses of the same information schemes? How do people use the language of information categories to create common ground, facilitating collaborative sense making and action? What expectations around information organization have workers developed from using other interactive applications? How might the addition of your computing tool into certain work practices affect how volumes of information could be usefully organized?

Next, I’m organizing the samples by dragging them into groups. These defined groupings will help later, when I’m making sense of the resul�ng data...

What larger technology trends and advanced analogies to other domains could valuably inform your team’s ideation around relevant information organization concepts? What inherently useful organizing structures could be present in the relationships between and among your sketched interaction objects and functionality concepts? What conventional interaction options and design patterns could allow users to flexibly create and appropriately apply needed organization schemes? What new top down or bottom up categorization and classification options might people opportunistically make use of?

And everyone in the lab knows that each of these groupings represents a different �ssue sampling �me in a series of readings taken during the dura�on of a long clinical trial...

What novel functionality concepts might your team envision to decrease or remove effort that would otherwise be needed to organize information in desirable ways? Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design concepting could valuably inform your team’s application envisioning efforts?

Working through Screens (Tabloid Size)  

Working through Screens: 100 Ideas for Envisioning Powerful, Engaging, and Productive User Experiences in Knowledge Work This heavily illus...