Bridging the Knowledge Gap
Posted February 2, 2009on:
Do you want to take control of what you know and use it effectively? Do you want to get your message across — convincingly? Do you want your products to be successful?
No matter how experienced you are at your job, how much you know about your business and your customers, remember that knowledge doesn’t do anybody any good unless it’s accurately transmitted.
Essentially, then, this means that business, industry and science are in the education and information business.
The demand to understand a product, a process, a subject or a service is part of our life. It is the need to know, the need to close the gap between our current knowledge and the knowledge we must acquire to accomplish our personal and professional goals.
This is particularly true now, when new knowledge is being generated at an ever-increasing rate. Somehow it has to be accurately transmitted, and in a form that is appropriate for the audience, if business, industry and science intend to remain innovative and on the cutting edge.
Everyone needs to keep pace. What is the use of having advanced technology if we are not using it well? And if we cannot use it effectively, what will be the effect on our economy? If we do not really know enough about all the new products, ideas, processes and discoveries to understand them, then how do we use and control them?
The role of good writing is to bridge that knowledge gap.
Within that context, user documentation holds a special place, because it is one of the most direct links a company has with its customers. For example, the written material that comes in the box with a product is the face of the company to the customer who opens the box. And, as we all know, you only get one chance to make a first impression.
Good user documentation keeps “user overhead” to a minimum. Consider: How often does your customer have to search for information, flipping pages, wondering what exactly to do next? Does your customer have to guess what certain terms mean? Have to re-sequence steps that are out of order? How easy is it for your customer to accomplish the task for which the product was purchased?
When you consider just how much written material affects our life, our businesses and our economy, the personal, professional and economic impact becomes apparent. Think, for example, of the opportunity cost to a customer or a company of an inaccurate and poorly written software guide:
- Endless searches for procedural information
- Calls to the vendor or manufacturer
- Return trips to the retailer for help
- Additional out-of-pocket costs for workshops or seminars
- No sense of accomplishment; frustration
- The job for which the product was purchased does not get done.
This lack of knowledge creates high “user overhead,” and too much of that means the “system is down.”
If you intend to produce a successful product, and if customer support and service are important to you, then you must recognize that good writing is an integral requirement for a successful business.
Think of the need for good writing in business, industry and science in this way: Good Product + Bad Documentation = Bad Business