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Capturing Tacit Knowledge in a 70:20:10 Environment


70:20:10 LearningIn my previous blogs I have described 70:20:10 learning and its importance in enabling optimized job performance. In a previous installment, I also reviewed the actions required to “deliver results through the 70:20:10 Framework” according to noted 70:20:10 advocate, Charles Jennings, and how Performance Enablement technology can be used to implement them.

In this installment I will examine some of the specific challenges of capturing tacit and informal knowledge (in support of the “70:20” elements) in today’s workplace, and the requirements these challenges dictate in terms of the technology used to do so. The next blog in the series will examine the technical challenges of curation and targeted delivery.

Principles of Knowledge Capture Technology

If you were tasked with building a comprehensive technology to enable effective knowledge capture, what would be the high level goals you would use to guide your design efforts? Leaving aside considerations regarding curation and delivery for now, I see two primary design goals:

1.    Ease of Use: Making it as easy as possible for users to capture their knowledge.

2.    Enabling Quality: Assisting users in capturing highly effective and useable knowledge to share.

Promoting Knowledge Capture – Ease of Use

So how would one go about creating a platform with low user barriers for knowledge capture? 

  • Leveraging Existing Formats & Technologies: First and foremost, a capture platform must utilize content generation technology which is available and accessible to its users. In today’s digitally-driven workplace, there are a number of technologies which are already pervasive, for instance, most employees already know how to create Word or Adobe documents and PowerPoint presentations. Knowledge is already being captured in documents and presentations, so it is imperative a knowledge capture platform be able to fully leverage existing technologies and digital formats already used in the workplace. Users should be able to upload relevant documents and tag them with appropriate metadata.

  • Leveraging Emerging Formats & Technologies: Less common but growing in popularity is the utilization of video and audio to capture tacit knowledge. Smartphones and laptops now come equipped with webcams and more and more people know how to use them. Web conferencing has also become commonplace. These technologies can also be utilized to capture workplace best practices and expertise (in Europe, these types of brief video vignettes are called “knowledge pills”). Certainly, most people are not yet as facile with this type of media as with, for instance, typing on a keyboard or talking on a telephone, but it does offer the advantage of capturing knowledge using the most fundamental way humans communicate - via speech. This type of media lends itself well to demonstrating something which requires a visual component and to content which has traditionally been passed on through storytelling or conversation (e.g.; success stories and war stories). A well-designed knowledge capture platform should make it easy for users to record and upload video (or audio) or at least upload and tag video files from their smartphones or other recording devices.

  • Leveraging Codification: Think about the informal knowledge sharing which already happens naturally in your workplace. People ask questions or seek advice from someone with the appropriate and relevant experience. It happens organically through multiple media – a casual conversation, a phone call, or an email. The problem is that these types of exchanges, while certainly beneficial to individuals, cannot be leveraged for others in the organization. The goal of knowledge capture is to widen the effect and provide it to everyone in the enterprise who can then use it to improve their performance. Instead of walking over to the next desk and tapping your colleague on the shoulder, you can, for instance, pose a question to everyone in a Community of Practice or topically relevant wiki. Similarly, instead of beating the bushes looking for someone with expertise in a given product or technology, you can simply type in a question into the appropriate Ask the Expert forum. By shifting knowledge capture into digital formats (whether text, documentation, or other media) the questions and answers become part of a codified knowledgebase. The expertise can then be utilized not just by the original individual who asked the question but by everyone in the organization who might benefit from that knowledge.

Promoting Knowledge Capture – Enabling Quality

Personally, I have found informal, tacit, “tribal” knowledge to be incredibly powerful – the “distilled essence of experience” - but it tends to have a drawback, at least in its rawer forms. If, for instance, you ask your elite sales reps to each record a sales success story video to share with the entire team, you’ll undoubtedly end up with content quality which varies widely. Some stories will be well-organized, concise, and engaging, others will be rambling, poorly structured, and difficult for an audience to learn from effectively. People are far more patient and flexible when engaged in casual conversation than they are when consuming pre-packaged information. That is why a providing guidance and formats for knowledge capture can be essential in ensuring the content is as effective and usable as possible. There are several ways a knowledge capture platform can assist users in creating highly effective and useable knowledge to share:

  • Pre-Formatted Templates for User Generated Content: Providing a designed, preformatted document or presentation template with standardized questions or sections to be filled in is a great way to prompt the appropriate content and ensure it will be organized in an easy to digest way. This is specifically useful for user generated content such as success stories, case studies, or project/activity debriefs. Users should be able to easily find these templates, fill them in, and then upload them or make them available for sharing. Ideally, they should also be able to provide relevant metadata to help make their submissions as “findable” as possible.

  • Guidelines for Feedback: Sometimes informal knowledge needs to be captured to guide individual development, specifically, to provide feedback either based on self-reflection or as the basis for informed mentoring or coaching. This type of knowledge content typically has a shorter lifespan than, for instance, best practices, and is helpful in benchmarking performance to assess what is going well and what can be improved upon. Tools to capture and assess performance include automated self-assessments and interactive performance checklists. This type of content may only have temporary applicability but needs to be easily captured and shared, for instance, between a manager and a direct report. Interactive scorecards are a good example of this type of technology.

  • Work Output Exemplars: Work output exemplars, that is, samples of “how it is done right”, are a very useful way to leverage experience across an organization. For instance, repositories of successful/excellent proposals, customer presentations, or any other common work outputs can provide useful models for anyone tasked with providing the same type of work output. The ability to upload and organize these types of repositories with this content is an extremely useful element in in a knowledge capture platform.

  • Content Rating: Some content management systems and knowledge capture platforms use a ratings system to crowd-source assessments of content usefulness, whether it’s a posting to a community of practice, a recorded success story, or a recommended best practice. I’m dubious about the efficacy of this approach. For one thing, many people do not take the time to rate content, they just use it. For another, this type of approach doesn’t filter out less effective content, it only provides guideline ratings and you can end up with a whole lot of less useful content which makes it more of a chore to locate the useful content. I believe a better approach is to have content submitted for review prior to publication. Certainly this is already a product feature in moderated wikis or CoPs. The ability to do this with other forms of content, including documents and video files, would ensure that only pre-reviewed and approved user generated content would be made accessible for general use. I would love to see this type of capability incorporated into any platform designed to capture user generated knowledge.

The next installment of this blog will look at the technical requirements for curating informal, user-generated knowledge content.

70:20:10 Performance Enablement 

K16online’s 70:20:10 Performance Center™ is a cloud-based platform which enables the power of 70:20:10 and informal learning to be systematically implemented into an organization in a way which directly drives job performance.

To learn more about how to enable employee performance, download our whitepaper, “Enabling Performance in a 70:20:10 World” and a copy of our HP case study, using the links below.

Please join us for our free webinar, “Implementing 70:20:10 Through Technology”, 10:00am (EST), Wednesday, April 30th. To register, click on this link:

Coming Soon: The 70:20:10 Technology Network is a free, online community devoted to implementing 70:20:10 learning through technology. Look for additional updates in the days and weeks to come from K16online!

Download "Enabling Performance"

Download the Case Study



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