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More and more organizations acknowledge the fact that knowledge – and the people in which it resides – is the most valuable strategic asset they possess. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of organizations that put little effort in capturing this knowledge and making it available to fellow colleagues. Even though this so-called tacit knowledge has proven to be a key success factor for organizations. Enough reason to give it some serious thoughts, don’t you think?
In the next two weeks, I would like to share some thoughts on tacit knowledge. In this first blog, I will discuss the importance and the advantages of capturing it. Most of the time the process of capturing (and documenting) tacit knowledge, is being perceived as very time-consuming and costly. Most organizations however, do not realize it offers great benefits and can be very decisive in their success. Next week, I will share some examples of how you can make it a fun activity and how it even can help you bring colleagues closer together.
In this blog, I would like to make a clear distinction between two types of knowledge: tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge. Tacit knowledge resides in our brain, is experienced-based and undocumented. It can be rather difficult to capture and share with others. Consider, for example, interpretation of complex and changing legislation, years of field sales experience and underlying key factors to ensure the success of projects. We cannot simply use WeTransfer to send it to our colleagues or copy it to a USB memory stick. At least, not yet.
Explicit knowledge, on the other hand, is knowledge that is already documented. Much explicit knowledge is documented in spreadsheets and instruction manuals. Nowadays most people use FAQs, Wikis and CRM systems to retrieve it.
Until they fully understand the benefits it offers and the critical contribution it can make to their success, most organizations will not start capturing (and documenting) tacit knowledge. For inspirational purposes, and for those that still have some doubts, please find some benefit below.
- Knowledge retention – The necessity to capture (and document) tacit knowledge that is embedded in the minds of employees, is simply due to the fact that people leave your organization. Long gone are the people who spent their entire careers within a single company. For instance, do you remember the last time you talked to somebody who received a golden Rolex watch from his employer? Also, stop and look around you for a sec. How many baby boomers are still working in your organization? I am pretty sure less than in 2010. This is because most of the baby boomers are on the exit from organizations. If they haven’t already.Valuable knowledge, possibly built up through many years of experience, is leaving your organization! Act immediately and start picking brains!
- Higher quality – Often the same activities are carried out by different people, teams or departments in the same organization. The quality of the results may vary greatly from one individual to another, depending on the methods used. By encouraging employees to share their experiences and document their best practices, employees are allowed to repeat good practices and learn from each other’s mistakes. Consequently, the quality throughout the entire organization will be enhanced.
- Increased productivity – By capturing tacit knowledge from experienced and knowledgeable employees, and making it available to other colleagues, a lot of daily activities can often be carried out more efficiently and effectively. It allows less experienced colleagues to benefit from the knowledge gained over the few past years and execute these activities as well.In this case you can think about an organization’s acceptance process, for example. Decisions are occasionally rather arbitrary because most of the time they are partly based on subjective factors. These factors include one’s individual knowledge and experiences. This could result in inconsistent decision-making and a lack of clarity among fellow colleagues on the criteria used. By identifying the used acceptance criteria from the (financial) experts and document them in an unambiguously way, fellow colleagues (mostly Sales) should be perfectly capable of making sound (and uniform) decisions themselves. This can be done by implementing the organization’s acceptance criteria in a decision tree based application, which is available to all members of the sales team. They will seek less ad hoc input from experts, which allows the experts to work more productive as well!
- Reduced learning curve – Sharing knowledge and experience, captured from experienced employees, can contribute enormously to reducing the learning curve for new hires. It helps your organization to get them up to speed quickly and allows the new hire to be a valuable addition to the team almost immediately.
The above is just a small selection of advantages. Capturing tacit knowledge, and making it available to fellow colleagues, can contribute greatly to your organizations’ success in many more ways. Are you ready to fully enjoy the advantages and start picking brains? In next week’s blog, I will share with you how you can make it a fun activity and how it even helps you bring colleagues closer together.