4 Tips for Evaluating Knowledge Tools

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Blogs, especially technology blogs, are filled with the latest, greatest implementation of stuff. No different then snake oil curing everything under the sun in the old days, today’s tools will claim to make your life better. Until the next innovation is announced tomorrow, making your current tool obsolete.

For those of us technology-minded folks, we can spend a lot of time implementing the latest and greatest. And never get any work done because all we do is implement the next cool thing.

Tools are supposed to help us do the work, not BE the work. Yet, today, many of us spend way too much time implementing the latest and greatest tool only to find we’re not doing much real work. Yes, I’m guilty too.

Since a tool is supposed to help us, what we need to do is figure out what benefits we’re looking for from a tool. Yet knowing ourselves is a difficult proposition as we giddily think that just by implementing the next shiny thing we will solve all of our problems.

It just ain’t so.

Here’s some suggestions on selecting the right tool for the work:

Know how you work.

This is not as easy as it sounds. Are you in front of a computer all day? Travel every week? In meetings all day? On the road? All of these different situations will significantly impact the tool you select to help you with your work.

Know your strong and weak organizational points.

If you are really good at capturing notes but lousy categorizing your work, pick a tool that will help minimize your weakness in categorizing your work and aiding your note-taking. Good at remembering names and phone numbers? A simple contact tool will work, otherwise some sort of database to help aid your memory would be better.

Map what is working now and what needs improving.

You’re using something now, right? So some things are working and some aren’t for you. Write all of those down. In essence, these become the criteria you will use to evaluate a new tool. If you don’t have this down, you’ll go after the next shiny thing out there without regard for how it will meet your working needs.

Use the new tool for 30-days.

Keep your old system (but don’t double enter). Fully immerse yourself in the new tool for at least one month. One month will give you enough different situations to adequately judge how well the tool is working for you. At the end of the 30-days, redo your “what’s working well” list and see how the new tool stacks up. If it doesn’t, move on.

Nothing will be the right tool for your entire career. Situations change and, just like using a hammer for nails and a screwdriver for screws, different tools need to be used for different times. Knowing how to evaluate the tools you use will go a long way to getting things done and not just chasing the latest shiny thing to come along.

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