Turning employees’ knowledge into an asset for the organisation

In July 2010, Mark Prisk, UK Minister of State for Business and Enterprise said:

As the events of the past two years have made painfully clear, we must leave behind the over reliance on financial services and support a renewal in modern manufacturing, so we are able to grasp the huge opportunities of the low carbon age. The ideas, skills and innovations of manufacturers will be just as important to our economic future, as the mills and mines were in our past.

Ten years ago, you’d find many consultants raising the issue that an organisation’s ‘knowledge assets’ walk out the door every evening.

Today, that’s still pretty much the case.

Organisations found it was difficult to capture the knowledge locked in employees’ brains. Many invested in expensive systems that offered poor authoring environments and complex ontologies. Retrieving the recorded knowledge could be a dreadful user experience as well.

With the economic future of countries such as the UK being based partly on creating wealth from the ‘knowledge economy’ and Intellectual Property, and with the recent, exciting, developments in technology (such as the semantic web, screencasts, wikis and open source software) now is the ideal time to revisit the issue of how to capture, collaborate and disseminate knowledge within and without the organisation. For a business working in a difficult climate, it can be the equivalent of finding loose change down the back of the sofa.

2 Comments

Larry Kunz

I think you’re right, Ellis, and I think the tools vendors have seen this need and are busily trying to tap into it.

As an example, collaborative wikis are becoming ever more sophisticated. I also read just this week that MindTouch is working on ways to tap into the expertise of coworkers and colleagues.

It’ll be interesting to see where all of this goes. I see these new tools coming into view, yet I don’t know if anyone has yet articulated exactly what the requirements are. Institutional memory is a slippery thing.

mick davidson

Larry,
Ellis knows that I am already heavily involved in using the Mindtouch software, and can really see the value in using to for collaboration and knowledge sharing. However, getting it to happen is another thing.
Although we have full management endorsement for this, actually getting people to take part is another story. True, many people see it’s value and jump in – but far too many people (easily more than 50%) just see it as a burden, something else to learn, something else they have to do when they’re already busy enough. The attitude is changing, but it’s very slow.
I also think that management have to lead by example. While this doesn’t guarantee success, actions speak louder than words. But they have even more pressure than their teams, so it’s a bit of a Catch 22.
I think in the next couple of years all this will change, and it will become just something we do. But for some of us at the cutting edge of this technology, it can’t come quickly enough.

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