Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The best storage medium for knowledge is the human brain

For years, I have heard several knowledge management experts talk about harvesting knowledge from workers who are retiring and storing it somewhere so that others in the company can access that knowledge when needed. I always thought this was a bad idea. I believe that no amount of harvesting, storing, cataloging and retrieving is going to retain the knowledge one person had. I am yet to see such a knowledge management system succeed.

I always felt that harvesting knowledge is like cutting off red roses from a plant and storing them as a bouquet. It will look good for a while and then dry out. On the other hand, if we take an entire stem of a rose plant and plant it elsewhere in fertile soil, the roses in that stem will last longer and once they dry out, new red roses will bloom.

I wanted to apply this approach to managing knowledge. Instead of harvesting knowledge from a fertile mind and storing them in a static document, how about expanding that knowledge from one person's mind to another person's mind via an informal learning framework of conversations, idea borrowing, discussions and mentoring.

After a few months of working with tens of customers and experts, we today have a simple and powerful framework to expand and nourish knowledge rather than just harvest it and let it decay. My colleagues in the Career OnDemand team are implementing just that. There are some very interesting ideas being implemented. Stay tuned. You will like it.
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