Knowledge Management: Findability vs. Discoverability

By Abby Clobridge
January 11, 2019

One of the top symptoms we encounter when diagnosing knowledge management problems is hearing “I can’t find what I’m looking for” or “I have to troll around in shared folders to learn about stuff.” Both of these statements are indicators of findability and discoverability challenges.

Findability is driven by users who are actively seeking out information, whereas discoverability is about pushing information and knowledge to users -- regardless of if they know it exists.

Findability

By ‘findability,’ we mean how easy it is for someone to locate data, information, or knowledge. In today’s digital world, findability typically involves relying on search or navigational structure.

If someone is looking for a specific document or asks a question, can that person easily locate the file or get a clear answer? How many items deep in a long list of search results was the answer? How many clicks did it take to get to a known document? How buried was a file within a folder structure?

Discoverability

Discoverability is another piece of the puzzle. If findability involves searching for a known item or the answer to a particular question, discoverability is the opposite -- it’s about serendipitous consumption.

By ‘discoverability,’ we mean consuming information and knowledge that has been surfaced or pushed to us or selected for us. How easy is it for a human to encounter information or knowledge that was not explicitly being sought out?

In the analog world, discoverability meant finding related books in the stacks of a library by browsing the shelves.

In the digital world, discoverability can be driven by high-quality human curation activities, by taking advantage of features within platforms, or by using machine learning to help surface related materials.

The Knowledge Management Lens

Knowledge management is about make it as easy as possible for people to find, use, or re-use organizational information and knowledge.

From this perspective, both findability and discoverability are important and should be addressed in your organization’s knowledge management strategy and associated KM tactics.


Abby Clobridge is the Founder of FireOak Strategies.