Don Norman introduced a design concept years ago on the tradeoff between knowledge in the head and knowledge in the world. It is a great concept for thinking about how to present information and where the memory burden is placed.
An ATM device is designed with knowledge in the world. All the information needed to use the device is there on the display. Learning is not required. This is the right way to design an ATM.
At the other extreme is knowledge in the head. Knowledge in the head does require learning, but can be much more efficient. Pilots who need to react quickly in an emergency depend more on knowledge in the head. They don’t have much time to search through several screens for checklists. The information needs to be learned so it is easily retrieved.
How does this design concept apply in our work at TiER1? In most knowledge solutions, there is a need to have knowledge in the world that is clearly visible. At TiER1, we intentionally think about how the knowledge in the world should be designed so that the user can easily access it and learning happens naturally through the interaction.
This doesn’t mean that knowledge in the head as a design approach is never used in our work. For power users, they certainly appreciate being able to easily dismiss layers of help that can get in the way of what they need to do quickly. The next time you are putting together a knowledge solution, you might benefit from thinking about it from a knowledge in the world vs. knowledge in the head perspective.