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The Opportunity

The simplification of Complex Knowledge is a paradigm shift opportunity for chatbots, with the potential to bring benefits to every person and every organisation on the planet.  


The Definition

Complex Knowledge is any combination of regulatory, statutory, legal, tax, tariff, policy and procedure matter, which is primarily found within documents.



  • Complex Knowledge is everywhere and impacts everything.
  • Complex Knowledge is vast covering billions of documents.  
  • Complex Knowledge is increasing in complexity on a frequent basis. 
  • Complex Knowledge contains algorithms comprising of choices, pathways and outcomes.   
  • Complex Knowledge is used by organisations and individuals to make informed decisions.
  • Complex Knowledge contained within documents are typically not subject to usability tests.
  • Complex Knowledge user decision journeys through documents are not measurable.
  • Complex Knowledge is the corner-stone for governance, risk and compliance.
  • Complex Knowledge contained within documents is no longer fit for purpose.


Recent Findings

Complex Knowledge by its very nature impacts every government and industry. Systemic problems such as those found in financial services and the health sector are often in the front-line grappling with Complex Knowledge. However, most Complex Knowledge is designed for safeguarding and by its very nature, lessons can be learnt from any sector. Sadly, it is often in the most extreme situations that people take notice. It is a recent tragedy where some of the insights mention are validated.  


In the early hours of 14 June 2017, a fire spread through Grenfell Tower. Seventy-one people died, many homes were destroyed, and countless lives have been affected.


One of the subsequent initiatives being led by Dame Judith Hackitt, produced an interim report called “Building a Safer Future – Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety”, which was published on the 18th December 2017.  This report is an initial study into Complex Knowledge and therefore has a relevancy that is far more profound than most people realise.


Within this report Dame Judith Hackitt stated

“it has become clear that the whole system of regulation, covering what is written down and the way in which it is enacted in practice, is not fit for purpose, leaving room for those who want to take shortcuts to do so ...”


This statement is universal to all types of Complex Knowledge.


It means there are deep routed systemic governance, risks and compliance issues impacting every government and industry.


The report goes on to say that approved documents are not produced in a user-friendly format. To make matters worse, the current format of covering each requirement in separate sections leads to multiple, separate specifications for overlapping or common elements. The situation is further compounded with links to other documents, which means there is no integrated single, compliant specification.  Key definitions are often unclear leaving too much open to interpretation. There is widespread confusion about what constitutes the regulations and what is guidance.  All sounds so familiar, everywhere!


Another interesting observation from the report is that some instances of non-compliance are not picked up at all because key work is encapsulated within the fabric of the product or service before being inspected. This is rather worrying insight.


The report advocates there needs to be a required change, which shifts ownership so that these documents are simplified, unambiguous, risk-based, proportionate and designed so that required deviation requires clear and consistent authorisation or review. This requires those responsible for these documents to be held to account to a higher degree. This requires clarity of roles and responsibilities underpinned by assessing and ensuring the competency of the people involved.


In sectors like Financial Services, there are strong controls in place for such documents, sometimes involving 20 or more signatures. The issue is the belief system that strong controls means strong substance. The reality is that the substance is often so poor that the Complex Knowledge has been dumbed down and relegated to shelfware for ‘training’ and ‘audit’ sign-off.


Dame Judith Hackitt’s reported stated

“any attempt to modify details of the regulation without addressing the clear systemic failings would be akin to adding a paint job and decorations to a fundamentally non-roadworthy vehicle”.


Another recent study involved the public sector covering householder planning permission for England. This involves a regulation covering 164 pages and national guidelines consisting of 51 pages. The Complex Knowledge containing 215 pages is used by circa 360 Local Government Authorities. Each produces its own variation of this content such as process diagrams, procedures and web content.  This reinvention of the wheel by each of these 360 organisations makes no sense and to make matters worse some of the reinvented content is dumbed down – in other words it is inaccurate. This reinvention modus operandi is pervasive … especially in health and financial services.  


Complex knowledge contained in documents is inefficient to use and is compounded by poor usage measurements and transparency. This leads to more false positives and false negatives due to decision distortions. Therefore, it incurs higher overheads to manage governance, compliance, risks, training, quality and audit.


The situation is far worse than generally realised. This is attributable to the check and balances having been compromised both internally and externally. In other words, the last line of defence being audit is now part of the problem. This is very worrying.   


Part 2 to follow.




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Freddie McMahon

Freddie McMahon

Director Strategy and Innovation

DF2020 Ltd

Member since

04 Aug 2017



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