Add structure to Notion: this is how you make information in your company easy to find

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Mark Vletter
24 June 2024
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All of the knowledge within your company is collected in one space: the knowledge base. Here you can find the answers to all kinds of questions. How do you ensure that the answers are easy to find? In this last part of our Notion-series, I’ll explain how you logically structure information in your company’s knowledge base.

In my previous blogs I shared how you choose a knowledge management tool within your organization, and how we at Voys use Notion as our knowledge base. To conclude this series, I will explain how you can make all your knowledge and information easy to find for your colleagues.

Ontology, taxonomy and choreography 

There is an academic discipline called library and information science. This discipline is concerned with the organization, access, collection and protection of information. Within this field there is something called information architecture and I would like to go into more detail on that.

Three elements are important in information architecture: ontology, taxonomy and choreography. Those terms sound complicated and that’s why you can forget them right away. The value is in their meaning. If you can process the meaning of these concepts in your knowledge base, you’ve already come a long way.

  • Ontology refers to the specific meaning of information. But for us, this term goes beyond just meaning. Because in order to make information understandable and useful, it must be accessible, clear and up-to-date.
  • Taxonomy is the arrangement of the parts, you can also see this as the structure.
  • Choreography is how meaning and structure fit together and provides a logical flow through all information.

Ontology: understandable and usable information

By giving everyone the opportunity to change information, you ensure that it’s current and understandable for colleagues. Is something not quite clear? Then you can add questions. And do you want to give more context to something? Then insert an extra piece of text, paste a link behind a passage or add a comment somewhere.

Taxonomy: the structure of information

There are two ways to structure information: either by topic or by time. 

Bringing structure to subject
The most common way to structure information is by topic. You have a primary topic, and you gather the relevant information under it. Do you want to delve deeper into the matter? Then you divide the information into sub-themes of the main topic.

Apply structure on time

Another option is to structure your information based on time. That can be the time when you need the information or the frequency at which the information changes.

  • Long-term information: This is information that rarely changes. At Voys, for example, this is information about how we work.
  • Medium-term information: This is information that is relevant now and in the near future, but which later changes and becomes irrelevant. An example of this is project information.
  • Short-term information: this is information about ‘ordinary work’. Think of to-do items and notes from meetings.

Default hierarchy, polyhierarchy and multi-hierarchy

Organizing both subject and time is useful, so there are standard ways of structuring these options.

  • A default hierarchy has one parent and multiple children.
    An example: the category of means of transport (parent) includes boats, cars and airplanes (children).
  • In a polyhierarchy, a child can have more than one parent.
    An example: educational software (child) arises from software and educational products (parents).
  • Then there is the multi-hierarchy in which several standard hierarchies are next to each other.

Just pouring your knowledge base into one of these models is not that easy. But they can help you determine your basic structure.

Choreography: the flow of information

Earlier the terms ontology and taxonomy were mentioned, now the last term is discussed: choreography. This is the most interesting of the three and shows the power of Notion as a knowledge management tool.

The internet is the most successful knowledge base, because it is there that you can link to other sources. A hyperlink refers to an entire page or to a specific element within a page. Those referrals are crucial for successful knowledge management. Notion lets you do the same thing: you can create blocks of information and display them on multiple pages. You can also easily link to other pages within the knowledge base. This is useful for breaking away from structure and letting information live across multiple pages in the knowledge base.

The power of Notion

Notion offers the possibility to link from one place to another via a hyperlink, just like on the internet. In this way you create a multi-hierarchical system of the different standard hierarchies. Because Notion has database elements, sometimes there is also some polyhierarchy in it.

For example, the notes of a meeting can be linked to a project, to a team, to the person who takes the notes or to someone who attended the meeting. Notion also adds the ability to structure information by subject as well as by time.

Determining where information fits best is sometimes difficult. Sometimes two or even more spots are the best solution. The beauty of Notion is that you can choose the page that you feel fits better and then link to that page on other pages where you believe the information is relevant. This breaks the hierarchy and creates a flow.

Separating information from communication

Now that you know more about structuring your knowledge base, it’s a lot easier to find and add information. That leaves me with one last point to emphasize: separate information and communication from each other.

Quote “You have to separate information from communication”

Information often begins to live in means of communication. The chat tool Slack is the best example of this. Slack is meant to communicate effectively with each other. The tool isn’t great for finding information, especially if it’s outdated. You see the same at meetings. A recording of an online meeting is useful, but a written summary is much easier to scan. In addition, recording the output of a meeting gives you the opportunity to read it again later and share it with others. This makes information usable for everyone.

Do you want to build a valuable second brain for your organization? Then you have to move information from means of communication to the means of information. You can encourage this by removing all communication in a chat system such as Slack after two months. If you know that information is no longer available at some point, you are much more likely to move it. We haven’t done this at Voys yet, but we do see that colleagues are increasingly sharing links to Notion in Slack. They then first put the information in Notion, and then share it via Slack.

A second brain for your organization

At Voys, we’ve learned a lot about knowledge sharing and knowledge management over the past 18 years. There is still plenty of room for improvement, but our organization will not function and grow without the knowledge base.

Notion turned out to be the perfect tool for us to collect all knowledge within the organization. And if you look at what the tool can do, chances are that this also applies to your company. Notion solves the problems of ontology, taxonomy and choreography like no other. But, like our knowledge base, Notion is not perfect. The tool could work even better if for example the search function gets an upgrade.

I hope you can get started after reading my knowledge management and Notion blog series, and that you’ve gained enough knowledge to build a knowledge base for your business. Are you working on it? Please let me know what you learn and what your experiences are, I’m curious to hear more. You can find me on X as @MarkV. Best of luck!

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