Knowledge Management – Connecting employees to implicit knowledge

Problem: We can’t keep tribal knowledge or connect our employees to it

Have you ever faced a problem learning quick tips and tricks in a software application you’re unfamiliar with? Did you just want to find a person who could show you the ropes? Did you just want to know who in your organization might have information on how to work with a challenging set of customers?  These are examples of common knowledge connection challenges faced by many employees.  The slide below illustrates two types of knowledge typically focused on in a Knowledge Management (KM) System. It also emphasizes the importance of including a strategy for providing employees greater access to more “Implicit” or undocumented and fluid types of knowledge. The simplest KM systems focus only on providing tangible documentation which can take the form of job aids, training, desktop procedures, presentations, etc.

Implicit knowledge includes expert and tribal knowledge as well as unstated knowledge that exists only in the ‘heads’ of employees. Implicit knowledge can also include undocumented strategies past and present as well as organization and project histories. This type of information far more telling and helpful in developing strategies for project planning, and in most situation the only way to find this is to ‘pick the brains’ of other or more experienced employees. It’s unreasonable to believe that all knowledge should be documented. It’s more realistic to value employees as living resources.

Solution: Build expert maps and encourage networking amongst your employees

A more expansive and holistic KM model would naturally attempt to build networks and bridges amongst it’s employees to facilitate better sharing of “Implicit” knowledge.  A simple and cheap solution to doing this is building an “Expert Map.”  This can be a simple chart in an html web page or even a wiki page that lists each of the org units employees. Each employee has their own personal profile or wiki page which they are responsible for updating with relatively current project information and areas of their expertise.

But providing a map of experts is only the first step. Establishing a real collaborative network amongst employees requires a re-examination of organizational culture and an org-wide strategy for changing or adapting it.

Tacit Implicit

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