Collaborative Note Taking 101

Note taking can be a personal exercise. Look around any conference table today and you’ll see a wide spectrum of note taking techniques, ranging from people writing on paper to folks tapping away at laptop keyboards.

But the notes themselves are also often quite personal. For example, when I go into a client meeting, I am there from a technical documentation standpoint, and my notes reflect that. Likewise, I would expect not to get much from the notes of a programmer. The result is that “knowledge islands” can form as everyone hoards their own notes.

Applications like OneNoteEvernote and WikiTouch offer collaborative note taking features, enabling teams to access each others’ notes for collaboration, and help distribute that knowledge within an organization by capturing meeting, research and project notes in a centrally accessible location.

Here are some tips for implementing collaborative note taking on your project team:

  • Define the benefits. Moving your team to a collaborative note taking platform shouldn’t be a cause for more work, especially if note taking is already an integral element in your work. It is important to communicate the benefits of the move to the entire team. Is it to capture important project information like requirements? Is it to better document decisions? Is meeting and research information falling through gaps?
  • Choose the appropriate application. Moving your team to a standard platform for note taking shouldn’t be a daunting task. However, you need to factor in team member note taking styles and security considerations into the decision. If your organization is hesitant about keeping private notes in the cloud then I suggest taking a look at OneNote (s msft), which enables you to keep your note taking and collaboration inside the firewall. If the cloud is OK, then Evernote or Evernote Premium (with its SSL security encryption) would also be an option.
  • Set note taking guidelines. Moving note taking to a collaborative app may require some initial guidelines to enable a seamless transition. Depending on your needs, your note taking guidelines may include templates to use (OneNote includes note taking templates), and directions about things like the use of fonts, numbering and bullet points. The aim of your guidelines should be to ensure some consistency across the notes your team takes. The end goal is to have a repository of notes that is accessible and understandable to all those on the project team.
  • Set note taking roles. While collaborative note taking removes the need for a single “scribe” to take meeting notes, I might recommend that you still pay some attention to note taking roles when moving to a collaborative note taking environment. For example, you may want to make sure that project related notes are recorded by the project manager.

Do you use collaborative note taking on any of your projects? Share your experience below.

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