Sunday, January 27, 2008

Tap Into Your Organization's Tacit Knowledge Pool

The training / learning model embraced by most organizations can be characterized as top-town, centre-to-periphery, and decidedly one-way. In other words, training is pushed from the centre, out to a dispersed audience of learners to be passively received in isolation. Not only is this usually not a very productive or enjoyable learning experience for trainees, this one-way "push" model of learning completely fails to leverage the treasure trove of knowledge and organizational memory residing in the brains of those in the field.

In other words, all the tacit knowledge about how things work, what does work and does not work, lessons from past experience, etc., that individuals have remains unshared with others across the organization. Technology can make this tacit knowledge sharing a very efficient process, but, unfortunately, most organizations do not take advantage of such technologies.

Two items that have found their way into my email inbox in recent weeks really help to illustrate the importance of changing our organizational training models to more closely reflect how people learn in the age of Google and social networking.

Firstly, Janet Clarey of Brandon-Hall Research provides this excellent slide show that contrasts the multitudes of ways that individuals learn and interact online in their personal lives versus the very linear, isolating, and ineffective ways that learning is often organized in the workplace.

Secondly, Intel corporation set up an internal wiki, titled Intelpedia, that captures and shares knowledge across the organization. Anyone within the organization can post and edit content on this wiki. In its first year, Intelpedia had more than 5,000 pages of searchable content and had garnered 13.5 million page views. Talk about leveraging the tacit knowledge stored in your peoples' heads!

Remember, not all learning need be in the guise of formal courses (whether in-person or online). Sometimes, for many just-in-time, on-the-job learning challenges, the best thing you can do is facilitate an easy way of communication and knowledge sharing and get out of the way. Such an approach recognizes that most useful learning within an organization is informal and happens on- the-fly and as needed.

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