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How to facilitate the sharing of tacit knowledge in Organisations

Organisations all over the world have realised that one of their most important resource, the experience, expertise and know how of their employees referred also as tacit knowledge, is not properly understood, valued, collected, stored and shared. Not  all by of them and not in time…

Sharing paper notes, meeting one-by-one with colleagues or, even worse, collecting and building knowledge for personal use only, limit the effect it has on the Organisation as a whole and when an employee retires all this wealth of information is gone forever (and probably has to be rebuilt from scratch through expensive training and trial & error).

It's not about putting soon-to-be-retired knowledgeable employees to write-down, record and document all what they have learned during their working life.

It all about creating an organisational culture built on trust and co-operation that facilitates and encourages the creation, sharing, and utilisation of such knowledge so this is done continuously and during the daily work.

At the very first place we need to understand the problem and deal with it. And of course, we need the ICT tools to help us do that. Those that will facilitate the most experienced to share such knowledge (as they are self-motivated to do so) and motivate the rest to participate both for finding the information and for sharing experiences. So, our tools have to act as culture change promoters as well. Traditional Learning Management Systems (LMS) are far from that by design. They can be good for top-down explicit knowledge transfer only.

Since the interaction between colleagues is a natural and preferred practice, our tools should emulate and enhance it. Even if there will be no direct contact it's quite different to ask or check the postings of a person, that quite possibly you respect, than just querying a system.

We need also to standardise the processes because now anyone who has the internal drive to collect and manage important information, does it in a different way and level. Someone may use post-it style notes and, at the other end, some even build their own MS-Access databases. The process we will implement should of course be easy, natural we may say for the social-media-grown generation and store the information in one place, visible to all and easily searchable by all. Participation then needs to be properly awarded and incentivised but in a rather playful way, not to create a competitive atmosphere. Portals, intranets, collaboration and groupware tools offer useful characteristics but fall short in the motivational part, so their actual usage can be limited unless it is obligatory by the Organisation.

Hopefully technology evolves, and modern solutions can cover most of the bases (if not all) and are now in a good level of maturity. Utilising them properly for sharing tacit knowledge, spirals its volume and value in the Organisation, making it a tangible asset and a competitive advantage.

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