Walk into any major store, and you will see the impact of high definition. The cost of a bigger, flatter and higher-quality TV is dropping dramatically. Consumers want to be able to watch programs with greater realism and play games with higher interaction. Even if they don’t understand what high definition means, they’re asking (and paying) for the next-generation TV experience.
The same phenomenon is happening on the Web. We are coming to expect high-definition Web experiences. Several years ago, it was amazing to hear decent-quality audio come from a Web site. Now, we take for granted that near-perfect-quality video and audio will be accessible on almost any Web page. The growth of bandwidth at home, acceptance of Flash as a near-standard and speakers at our desktops have taken us to the age of high-definition Web.
Now prepare for the high-definition document. It’s coming, and it might be one of the more dramatic shifts in how we work and interact with knowledge. Let’s take a look at a simple document and see how it changes in the world of high definition.
Meet “policy document,” a simple Microsoft Word document or Adobe PDF that details a key policy change in your organization. Today, it is drafted, revised, approved and published on an internal Web site or e-mailed to your workforce and customers. As we make “policy document” into “policy high-def document,” there are some dramatic changes.
From Read-Only to Read/Write: This document will be revisable and extendable by the reader in the following ways:
Ratings and Rankings: Not every document is equally important or read. Imagine if “policy document” had a simple box at its end that allowed each reader to rate it on at least one or more scales: valuable, readable, realistic, provocative. Once again, exposing these ratings to the reader community takes bravery, but it reflects the changing desire to have context and community ratings for the massive choice of what we read.
Listen/Watch Documents: Although reading can be an effective form of communication, watching and listening can be even more powerful in many instances. Imagine if “policy document” had a small, easy-to-produce video segment that added context and human gestures to the words. Laptops already often have embedded cameras, so the ability for authors to add comments, passions and stories will be commonplace in many organizations.
Search-Enriched Documents: Open the document on the left side of the screen, and the right side does an automatic search of content and topics. The former “policy document” pops up to show how things have just changed. A structured search of the corporate intranet or Google is triggered by embedded commands in the document. The age of “fingertip knowledge” will demand contextualized search for each document.
Comprehension and Implementation Tracking: Compliance and knowledge management drivers in our organizations will push us to add simple quizzing or follow-up action tracking for documents. How many of your readers really understand “policy document,” and how many have implemented its directives within 12 days of reading it? Your documents often will be extended to add these functions.
Everything described above can be implemented today with existing technology. High-definition documents will push more intensive knowledge sharing and learning. The largest hurdle is our current culture of top-down document publishing.
Elliott Masie is the CEO of The MASIE Center’s Learning Consortium. He can be reached at email@example.com.