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A Superhero’s Guide to Knowledge Management

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A Superhero’s Guide to Knowledge Management

Dec 15, 2021   |  By
KMI Guest Blogger David Newstead, CKM, PMP

It may sound strange, but pop culture has a lot to offer Knowledge Management, especially science fiction and superhero franchises. Some of these institutions now stretch across several lifetimes as well as every conceivable kind of media. This includes adaptations in film, television, comic books, radio, podcasts, magazines, novels, gaming of every variety, and much more. Overtime, this body of work has led to a wide range of strategies to simply keep track of it all. This makes these franchises particularly content rich with a lot of characters, alien planets, and generations of creative teams who made it happen. Consider that Superman and Batman are almost a century old at this point, representing an incredible amount of information to organize from their many adventures. And other iconic heroes aren’t far behind! So after carefully reviewing the most popular franchises over quarantine, I wanted to share what stood out most and what seems applicable beyond just your next trivia night.


You might wonder, why bother tracking an epic battle between good and evil on a planet that doesn’t exist? The short answer, of course, is that people enjoy it and it makes money. But that’s not the complete answer. Even the knowledge products that aren’t directly profitable still contribute by encouraging the myriad outlets of fandom and inspiring more creative endeavors – artistic collaborations, cosplay, and reimagining something that’s been around since before your parents were born! But before you can boldly go where you’ve never gone before, you have to know where you’ve already been.


Because these franchises are corporate owned intellectual property, it’s no surprise that there’s paid staff dedicated to them, producing a variety of knowledge products for internal reference and future consumption. What’s more noteworthy though are the legions of fans that populate unofficial wikis, zines, and comment threads for no other reason than because they like it. This synthesis of paid and voluntary work is necessary and even reinforces itself, where more of one sparks more of the other.


Search through the information available about a franchise and you’ll soon find official databases and bulky encyclopedias that document every hero and villain, alien species and speculative piece of technology in the galaxy. Then, there are the video interviews and making of featurettes, documentaries and in-depth guides that unpack all the components that collectively make up these cultural enterprises. Communities form around them and become forums for discussion and debate. Interestingly, the franchise and these knowledge resources are really one in the same, just an extension of the experience that empowers people with more ways to engage with the story.

So What?

Your latest project might seem like it’s a universe removed from summer blockbusters and hit TV shows. The difference is that your work, those it benefits, and the results you’re achieving are real – like really real in the real world where things matter. More time and energy might get devoted to fiction, but the best practices pioneered for our entertainment can be useful guideposts towards a higher calling, your higher calling.

Let’s review some key takeaways:

  • Combine the paid Knowledge Management efforts of a few with the voluntary passion of many.
  • Encourage a sense of community for those who are interested in what you’re doing. These are your biggest fans, thoughtful advocates, and potential reinforcements in future endeavors.
  • Develop engaging and easily accessible resources about your work and how it was accomplished, because it deserves that conversation! It’s these things that allow other people to learn from your valuable experience.
  • And most importantly, use all these touchpoints to spur a creative cycle where past projects inform and inspire future ones in new and imaginative ways.

One benefit of fiction is that it helps people rethink and redefine what’s possible. And hopefully, that same impulse behind today’s blockbusters can get us all to look at our own Knowledge Management work a little differently from time to time. Don’t forget that with great knowledge comes great responsibility. I’m sure it’s a burden that you know very well. But in the herculean tasks ahead, you are the real deal and the hero of this particular saga. Good luck and Excelsior!


David Newstead is a project manager and writer in Washington, DC.

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