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Information-Rich Engineering Design : Organize Team/ Develop Knowledge Management Strategy

Resources and strategies to promote the integration of high-quality information into the engineering design process


When you organize your project team, you need to take stock of the skills of individual members and divide up team roles to make the best use of your resources.  During this time of organization, it is easy to overlook the information gathering, organization, and management skills and procedures you will use during the project. 

As with most things, prior proper planning will avoid many headaches later in the semester, when you need to write reports or give presentations, locate an important fact, or remember the logic behind a decision you made early on in the process.  Citation management tools will help you organize the literature (articles, standards, codes, etc.) you find, and Communication Tools will help you organize the internal work of the team, so none of you important work gets lost.

Taking Stock of Your Skills

There are many information roles in a well-organized Informed Design Team.  In order to make best use of your time and energy, your team can take stock of the skills, abilities, and inclinations of your members when it comes to information gathering and management. You can rate yourself on a five-point scale in the following areas:

Questions   Rating (High--Low)
I enjoy gathering information from other people (Communicator) 5   4   3   2   1
I prefer reading written documentation (Researcher) 5   4   3   2   1
I know the important library databases in my discipline (Researcher) 5   4   3   2   1
I can locate professional standards and codes (Researcher) 5   4   3   2   1
I am familiar with patents, how to find them and read them  (Researcher) 5   4   3   2   1
I am good at incorporating information from multiple sources (Synthesizer) 5   4   3   2   1
I am good at making sure information is findable and accessible by the team (Organizer) 5   4   3   2   1
I make my teammates aware of new information we've gathered (Distributor) 5   4   3   2   1
I can tell the difference between low and high quailty information (Evalutor) 5   4   3   2   1
I am good at writing up reports incorporating information we've found (Documentor) 5   4   3   2   1

The answers to these questions can help your team figure out what information roles you all prefer to take on in your team.  If no one on your team rates themselves highly in one of these areas, you can speak with the instructor about how to increase those skills (and find some answers throughout this LibGuide).  A particular team member might meet multiple roles, or multiple team members might contribute to meeting one role by specializing in certain disciplines of research.

Which team roles do you think are most important? Are there roles you feel that are unnecessary, if so, why?  What do you feel your biggest information challenges are as a design team?

Collaborative Knowledge and Citation Management Tools

The following citation management tools enable you to create a customized library of papers for your team.  The tools typically will help you with citation formattting and Mendeley allows you to share your highlights and annotations on documents. 

Communication Tools

Capturing the information your team generates internally is as important as organizing the information you've gathered from the literature.  Many communication products now exist that enable you to share documents, some even in real-time, so the team always knows where the current version of a document is.