Knowledge architecture is learning-driven, knowledge-first building design for an age of collaborative internet social literacy

A new, more intelligent way of understanding in real-time the needs for built space of customers and users can guide property providers in developing improved products and experiences to capture greater, lasting value, superior market learning and more dependable returns on assets.


Download a similar, printable pdf of this document here, and its complement on Narrative Learning here.

Shiro director Graham Lauren was amazed when in his research on workplace strategy, the senior researcher of a top, ASX-listed Sydney CBD office owner told him how little it knew of how its tenants used their spaces.

So, if there is even one such, supposedly expert, well-resourced commercial property organisation without a formula to fix this potential big money-losing problem, how many other similar property providers unwittingly also leave money on the table by failing to capture such critical customer knowledge?

After all, the minds that regularly occupy any built environment can tell you better than anyone precisely what they need, and how it could, or should, be modified to provide a better fit for their needs.

Those minds represent that space’s “knowledge community.”

A knowledge community comprises a unit with a shared and often committed interest in improving the nature of both the facilities it occupies and, possibly in combination, the related services it receives or is offered.

Showing commitment to the occupancy relationship by demonstrating an intention to uphold product and service quality for the customer – however the customer perceives it – is essentially basic quality assurance, and makes simply for smarter marketing.

As a “captive” group, it cannot avoid developing deep knowledge, strong opinions and expectations about the spaces it occupies. And it can tell you exactly what needs to be overhauled and where attention would be best spent, and prioritised.

And, being “static,” as a community, unlike most other marketers’ target markets, not only can this one be reached, but like all others, it contains more intelligence, knowledge, opinion and potential feedback than ever currently gets put to use in discovering the optimum balance of value for users and providers.

Its minds are also available and willing, if you are a provider, to tell you what you need to know.

In almost all instances in the knowledge age, we are best served and most profitable in each dimension of our society when we seek out, capture and put to work the best knowledge we have available to us.

And in transforming knowledge into learning, we now have, in technologies such as wikis, the best tools ever invented for probing for detail, capturing and distilling into sense a range of diverse views and opinions.

We can transform that knowledge into compounding, recurring streams of enquiry, learning and, played intelligently, profit.

The incursion of the social internet into the detail and design of better property and facilities is inevitable

It is beyond doubt that the capacity of the internet to enable fine-grained social feedback will be put to use in improving property solutions for users. After all, few industries’ products enjoy such frequent and intimate access to their customers as the structures in which we live and work. The consensual digitised collaboration (and new data generation) the internet enables between long-term suppliers and customers will transform many businesses, facilitating, in each, consistent supplier learning and responsiveness to change.

You just have to know how to do it, and that is a distinctive Shiro insight and competency.

And it is why, through Shiro Architects’ directors’ unique combination of skills and experience, and working closely with, and guided by, clients, we are presenting here our ability to meet their decision-making needs for powerful real-time qualitative data about their customers and users, whatever the knowledge community being served. As you are already reading, of course, we call it Knowledge Architecture.

Property’s future will be build inside the minds of customers

In any industry, understanding customers better to get closer to them simply makes good business sense. Knowledge architecture meets this need by enabling property providers and their designers to climb inside the minds of their knowledge communities to develop the most appropriate and best-fitting combinations of products and services.

Knowledge architecture constructs an in-situ, digitised, collaborative, social online space through which users’ and their communities’ needs can be explored, understood and the future of the property relationship be designed according to explicit, identified demand.

In some instances, such as in the workplace, this may represent a consistent evolution, enabling owners to get a better return on a facility over a longer term by getting inside the minds of successive work team members to gauge their changing needs.

The diagram above is adapted from a pretty much standard business school industry map of value inputs and outputs. However, showing commitment to the occupancy relationship by demonstrating an intention to uphold product and service quality – however the customer perceives it – is essentially basic quality assurance, and makes simply for smarter marketing.

To those who move deliberately, it will also create the possibility of being first to deliver wholly new and novel bundles of products and services.

Because they can reach out to ask users real-time questions, using knowledge architecture thinking will enable providers to control the dialogue that creates the new learning and outcomes on which they will wish to build.

The knowledge architecture perspective

From the knowledge architecture point of view, a property is an opportunity to learn more about that building’s uses and users to develop new knowledge of how to satisfy that occupant target audience’s need, and therefore how to attract others like it.

Advantage will be created by understanding how to build knowledgeable, knowledge-creating relationships with entire communities.

The learning knowledge architecture can deliver will inevitably be exercised in developing future strata and build-to-rent properties, each of which represents a discrete knowledge community that is representative of a greater whole.

A knowledge community may just as easily comprise the individual users of a single leased office unit, or those across a whole city-centre office building, a retirement village or community development.

A city block packed with knowledge workers naturally represents an extremely rich and diverse knowledge community, not least in consideration of office owners’ needs to know how to get to grips with tenants’ gowing mastery of “workplace strategy.” (We have a loose working definition of knowledge-age workplace strategy driving knowledge productivity as “knowledge amplification in the most convivial and productive space,” and we are also guided by our research that the better tenants get at buying space, the less they take.)

But just as deserving of attention for certain developers would be the knowledge represented by, for example, a new village development packed with internet-literate retirees, a community comprising young households, a student campus facility or a school.

In the knowledge age, each has diverse, intelligent, communicative, socially literate and vocal customers seeking their own form of satisfaction.

Simply dropping in technology and hoping residents will use it is, however, unlikely to work when what matters most is the ability to foster enduring, trusting, collaborative, knowledge-building relationships built on repeated human learning and curious enquiry among residents and their communities.

Paying customers expect respect and intelligent responsiveness to their needs, making this, as a rolling, continuous service, less like survey research than it is attentive, constant, if remote, virtual “concierging;” that is, post-completion, “attentive, individualised service.”

Managed well, because it can be attractively documented, presented and tested, and geared to managers’ precise needs for the specific intelligence they determine, nothing can compare currently with the qualitative data it can deliver to those who need it.

And clearly, against this emerging backdrop, those who seek to work with the knowledge of a community to achieve a better understanding of its needs in pursuit of superior customer relationships are likely to prosper most from their learning.

Building new knowledge creates new capabilities and reduces risk

The learning knowledge architecture will deliver will trigger rapid improvements in supplier insight, and the ability for the party engaged to test new ideas, and to drive and respond more rapidly to changes in its market.

Gaining access to user knowledge, and knowing how to use it, will transform not only the new combinations of products and services the property provider can introduce, but also forever the way it works as a result of the new learning and advanced capabilities it develops.

Likewise, whatever the space or scale of the project, through acting on superior source material, knowledge architecture can minimise risk for those who wish no longer to implement a design based on random luck, guesswork, or impetuous designer taste and instinct.

Knowledge architecture introduces an information-driven methodology whose findings can be thoroughly iterated, documented and tested long before going on site.

Using our own growing knowledge, we can, of course, show you how to test and experiment with your designs, and to do this among the specific audiences for which they are intended.

A future built on collaborative internet social literacy

The fuel for knowledge architecture lies in knowing how in a socially internet-literate world to capture and make what is known by customers work to their own benefit.

Clearly, pervasive internet literacy and use will not go into decline anytime soon, and our model is based on a methodology we call “narrative learning.” (Please download printable pdf download above or beneath.)

We seek relationships with those who aim to learn to build the future

Shiro Architects is a practice built on proven, award-winning architectural design skill, and now we are looking to cultivate partnerships with builders, owners, developers and investors keen to embrace the coming age of knowledge- and learning-driven architecture and the new future-shaping understandings and services it can deliver.

We believe knowledge architecture has a big future because, at minimum, it simply adapts long-standing qualitative market research practices found in other industries to the emerging needs and idiosyncrasies of property.

Unlike the mostly closed, yes-no questions of many online surveys, qualitative research is softer and designed to elicit respondents’ feelings toward a product or, in some instances, a politician, a party or an issue, to understand better the messages that need to be communicated by its promoter.

Such research and the information it yields also offers the most direct, economic and least risky route to sustained capture of user feedback, to deliver focused customer and user-community happiness.

Those who can learn to use it well are likely also to benefit from the distinctive branding and reputational differentiation and business growth being seen to engage thoughtfully and appropriately with long-term customers can bring.

And those who demonstrate clear method to organise, motivate and steer the generation of new ideas and new revenues through productive collaboration that everyone understands, and in which each knowledge community member can participate fully, should they wish to, will certainly find themselves a long way ahead of rivals that haven’t yet figured this out.

Download a similar, printable pdf of this document here, and its complement on Narrative Learning here.