E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

Lost! Where Did Our Knowledge Go? – And How Social Software Can Help Bring It Back!

Here is another worth while reading article from CollaborationLoop, this time by David Goldes, that I am sure plenty of folks over here would be really interested in, specially if you are one of them. Yes, a baby boomer. The article itself is titled Lost! Where Did Our Knowledge Go? and it basically comes to discuss how over the next couple of years plenty of businesses will be challenged with the unprecedented vacuum that baby boomers would be leaving in those same companies when they all start retiring. In the past I have been weblogging myself about this particular effect and how different companies would need to start re-evaluating their Knowledge Management strategies, if they haven’t done so already, in order to try to capture all that tacit knowledge that is floating around in people’s heads and still to be documented before they all start flocking away into their well deserved retirement. And along those same lines it looks like both David and Sachin Anand have made some very interesting points on why companies would need to react now:

"The greatest problem that the Baby Boomer retirement situation presents is the amount of knowledge that is at risk of being lost.  80% of an organization’s critical knowledge is held in the heads of its employees, with only 20% being formally documented, meaning that companies will witness the majority of their knowledge and know-how walk out the door with their retiring employees."

This is just so accurate ! I am sure that plenty of us have been exposed to some of this. I am sure we all know plenty of people who advocate that all of their knowledge is well stored, and managed, in rather their own personal computers or in people’s heads. Plenty of different efforts have been put together indeed to try to switch this ongoing trend for far too long but over time it seems like it may not have been that successful. So what can we do to address or fix this?

"[…] Right now is the time to begin the restructuring and rethinking of knowledge continuity management in the workplace.  Many authors in this field currently discuss the need to retain the Baby Boomer labor force for as long as possible, through practices such as part-time hiring and outside consulting.  Unfortunately, delaying the process of retirement is only a short-term answer to a long-term problem.  Instead, knowledge retention through advanced knowledge worker tools and technology will be the long-term answer."

"[…] By increasing communication, improving document management, and enhancing information retrieval, CBE’s provide companies with a digital knowledge retention system.  Eliminating reliance on tacit knowledge is the first step towards avoiding a knowledge continuity crisis."

Spot on! I just couldn’t have agreed more with David’s comments in this particular respect and why I still feel, like back then, that social software and Web 2.0 tools could be of great help to address some of these concerns. In the past, plenty of different tools have been put in place to try to store all that explicit knowledge coming through as Intellectual Capital. However, there wasn’t much more emphasis on tacit knowledge related tools and we may be witnessing right now a new and fresh wave of new KM and collaborative tools where the main focus is in the tacit exchange of knowledge and not otherwise. We may be witnessing now the right time to embrace social software in such a way that baby boomers would still feel quite comfortable with making use of very user friendly tools to share what they know but much more importantly a set of tools that would help all knowledge workers get involved in different conversations and continue that knowledge transfer that other tools in the past have failed to provide.

So to the initial comments on Lost! Where Did Our Knowledge Go? we may just be witnessing that it may not have gone too far away from where we are now if we get to embrace and adopt those social software tools (i.e. Weblogs, wikis, social bookmarks, tagging, podcasts, RSS / Atom feeds, etc. etc.) that would make knowledge sharing much easier than ever before. In most cases with plenty of them where knowledge is just one or two clicks away from everyone else to enjoy that knowledge shared.

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