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Finding Lost Items

March 20, 2014

This morning I realized I lost my wallet.  I’m sure you can all identify with this, either losing keys, wallet or something when you are trying to rush out the door to get to work.  I searched frantically in all the normal places, but couldn’t find it anywhere.  I was getting more mad and frustrated by the minute.  Then I started to think, where did I have it last.  I know, it was in my coat pocket.  I looked there, but alas my pocket is empty.  Oh, I had my gym bag last night – not there.  Darn.  I have no idea where it is.  I’m dreading the process of reporting lost credit cards and getting a new license (luckily there was no money in it).

Ok, wait – I know how to solve this problem.  I’ll just do ‘knowledge capture’ on myself and then I’ll figure this out.  What is knowledge capture?  It is a process we use at Discovery Machine to get subject matter experts (SMEs) to recall and articulate their tacit knowledge so we can build cognitive models of their expert processes.  One of several techniques we use with SMEs is to recreate historical events in their mind so they can more easily recall those little details that really make them expert.

So now I am driving to work, still mad, but talking myself through  a mock knowledge capture session.  Where did I last see my wallet? (I already told you – in my coat pocket.  Getting madder). What was I wearing then (What does that matter? – madder).  Now I have to tell myself to just trust the process and go through it.  Ok, I was wearing a red shirt – the wallet is not in my shirt.  I had a gym bag with me – not in there, I already checked that before I left the house.  I was wearing black sweat pants that I put on when I left the gym.  Wait! Those sweats have front pockets!  I call home and someone checks for me.  Sure enough my wallet is in the front pocket.

How come I couldn’t just remember this directly?  Well as soon as I realized my wallet was not in its normal place, I started making several guesses.  I even looked in my gym bag 2 or 3 times.  This creates cognitive biases which tend to limit which memories can be recalled.  The knowledge capture process we use at Discovery Machine helps remove these barriers so we can uncover the tacit knowledge that separate experts from others.  Now, we use this process with military experts in order to build effective training simulations for them.  But, as you can tell, it also works in everyday life.  I’m just glad I got my wallet back.

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