Leveraging Tacit Knowledge

Updated: Sep 20 2003, 05:30am hrs
Leveraging the Organisational Tacit Knowledge in todays highly dynamic world scenarios change so fast that the only sustainable competitive advantage an organisation can have is to learn and innovate faster than its competitors. Things are so complex and interrelated, both outside and within the organisation that it cant be left to an individual or a group of people, rather the whole organisation needs to rally around the purpose of discovering and managing the organisational tacit knowledge and leverage it to learn and innovate fast.

Organisation capacity to learn and innovate as breathing in and breathing out is the fundamental life giving force in human beings, similarly learning in and creating out (innovation) is the fundamental life giving force of any living system. Living systems sustain themselves because of their capacity to learn and re-create themselves as things change. Nature is the best example of sustainability. It has sustained itself for centuries just because of its capacity to change and adapt to new circumstances. Therefore, understanding and developing the organisation capacity to learn and create is essence of sustainability.

Organisation capacity to learn and create is the process of discovering and developing the tacit knowledge and wisdom of individuals, teams and the organisation as a whole. A process where individuals and teams learn not only new skills and competencies but also understand the underlying principles and processes (the know-why) and then leverage it to innovate new products and applications.

i-Knowledge Management (i-KM)
The objective of i-KM is to spe-ed-up the organisation learning and creating process by

* Discovering the tacit knowledge and wisdom within the organisation

* Sharing it with the larger audience

* And enabling people to leverage it for creating innovative practices and products

But the challenge is how to discover tacit knowledge and wisdom and then how to develop it Rather more fundamental questions are how is tacit knowledge different from the other knowledge/information that is present in the organisation What is the source of tacit knowledge/wisdom How does it grow in an organisation Can it be shared Since the source of tacit knowledge is the individuals personal experiences and insights than how can it be shared and become the part of organisation tacit knowledge

And lastly how is it different from the knowledge management systems and processes that we are trying to implement in our organisations

Some of the key processes of i -KM are:

Coaching And Apprentic-eship: In a recent publication by Harvard Business School (based upon five years of in-depth research and analysis)...In a market characterised by uncertainty and instability, there is now the urgent need for all leaders to quickly adopt a talent mindset and develop a strategic approach to talent management if they wish to successfully compete in todays world. And the vehicle for propelling a talented person to greater heights and greater performance in much less time is coaching -which enables people to stretch and grow in ways that hold them to the company. Apprenticeship has been the process of sharing personal experiences and insights with the learner for centuries. Its through apprenticeship programmes that tacit knowledge is shared in the fields of medical sciences, arts and music, sports, etc. Guru-shishya parampara of past is the best example of sharing tacit knowledge through a coaching relationship. The essence of coaching is to share tacit knowledge and wisdom by sharing personal stories and experiences

Communities Of Practic-es (CoPs): CoPs are the social system of collective learning, which leads to better understanding of the practice among its members. CoPs are companys most versatile, dynamic and self-sustaining knowledge systems. They are nodes for the exchange and interpretation of knowledge and retain knowledge in living ways. Members are informally bound by what they do together and what they have learned together in their area of practice. Life cycle of any CoP is determined by the value it provides to its members. Therefore, nurturing CoPs across the organisation is one of the key processes for managing the tacit knowledge.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI): AI is the art of eliciting positive experiences from the past and present, i.e. understanding what has worked and what is working best in the organisation. It is the process of discovering the causes of success of individuals, teams and the organisation as a whole. Therefore, we need to develop the organisation capacity to conduct and enable appreciative inquiry for discovering and sharing the tacit knowledge.

Story Telling: It is, by its nature, personal, interpretive, and uniquely human. It passes on the essence of who we are. Wisdom and insights of past has been passed to generations through stories. Stories are the most powerful and effective way of sharing personal insights and experiences. Developing the art of story telling among leaders and encouraging them to share their tacit knowledge through stories can lead to the huge reservoir of organisation tacit knowledge, which can then be tapped for new innovations.

Developing the art of story telling among leaders and encouraging them to share their tacit knowledge through stories can lead to the huge reservoir of organization tacit knowledge, which can then be tapped for new innovations.

Outbound Team Games And Activities: Taking the project teams and the cross-functional teams out for an outbound adventure game res-ult in the unfreezing of mental blocks/inhibitions that exst within team members and wh-ich lead to openness and sharing of personal experiences, fears, aspirations, etc. Once in a while such an unfreezing experience act as an catalyst for team sharing and working.

Creating Learning Histories Of Projects: Encouraging the project teams to map their experiences i.e. what happened and why it happened they way it happened in the projects.

Teams to create the learning histories of their projects, which can than be a rich source of tacit knowledge and experience for the whole organisation.

Reflection And Dialogue: Encouraging people to reflect and have dialogue both individually and in teams. Just like PDCA cycle is the essence of quality, similarly, reflection and dialogue should be the way of working and being in a learning organisation.

Trust is the bandwidth of i-KM. Therefore, to discover, manage and leverage tacit knowledge- a high level of trust within the organisation is a prerequisite. Rather, both the processes feed into each other i.e. trust leads to the sharing of tacit knowledge and which leads to greater trust within the organisation.

The writer is senior learning designer, Grow Talent Company Ltd