Friday, 22 July 2016

3 ways to make tacit knowledge as findable as Pokemon

Lots of work is done, as part of Knowledge Management programs, to increase the findability of documents. But how do you make tacit knowledge findable, given that it is as invisible to the naked eye as Pokemon?

The ratio of tacit to explicit knowledge in an organisation is an unknown factor. People often quote "80% of the knowledge is tacit" - but nobody knows for cure. It's a large proportion for sure, and in some organisations very new to Knowledge Management it can be way more than 80%. So how do we find that tacit knowledge when we need it?  You can't see it, you don't know where it is; you just know you  need it.

We work on finding documented knowledge through several approaches:

But how do we ensure tacit knowledge, still in people's heads, is findable?  The problem with tacit knowledge is that it is invisible. Like Pokemon, we can't see it, unless we have the tools to look for it.

Here are three tools we can use. 

Firstly we can link the people to the documented knowledge. By keeping the names with the knowledge we allow the reader of the document to find the originator, and ask for more detail - to ask for the tacit knowledge which never got into the document.

Secondly we network the people into communities of practice. If you ask a question of a community of practice, it will reach the person with the answer and with the relevant tacit knowledge, even if you do not know that person.

Thirdly we introduce a knowledge-finder system. By this I do not mean a personal directory system such as Facebook, LinkedIn or SharePoint's MySite. These sort of systems are very good for finding the personal details of someone who's name you already know, but are poor for finding people with specific knowledge or skills. Even LinkedIn struggles with this, with no way to search for a combination of endorsed skills, even if you trusted the endorsement system.

No, the best analogue for a people-finder is a dating site. Dating sites are designed to make people findable, based on certain personal characteristics ("Tall, dark haired, handsome, single etc"). People-finders in organisations need to make knowledge-holders equally findable ("expert in knowledge management, experienced in KM strategy and framework development") which means using metada lists of knowledge categories. Selecting knowledge-types from preset lists is constraining in terms of data entry, but it massively enhances findability, and findability is what we are looking for here - finding the tacit knowledge that is otherwise as invisible as Pokemon.

This sort of tacit-knowledge-finder is the Knowledge Manager's equivalent of Pokemon Go, acting as an index to all the tacit knowledge which is out there, but invisible to the naked eye. 


Jean-Luc Abelin said...

If we know that a company social network is mainly to find people and a sharing knowledge platform is to find content the purpose is to deploy a tool which able to do both action. As you said the capability to organize and structure knowledge in order to find it easily but also the capability to describe people an structure people with informations tags and link to content in order to find who knows what or who did what. Of course with community of practice members know these information but the challenge is to able everyone to find the good guy who is owner of the good information . So people must be treated as content clearly and efficiency

Nick Milton said...

Yes indeed Jean-Luc

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