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Knowledge Retention

Do you know that your knowledge leaks as you age!? What are you doing to stop this leakage? What are your plans to retain you knowledge? Solutions are starting to appear in the horizon...

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Written by DeletedUser

People working in large organization have most likely heard about the field of Knowledge Management, and that there someone in the organization responsible for retaining and protecting their knowledge, to avoid the loss of this knowledge from the aging workforce.  One of the books that talks about this is Lost Knowledge: Confronting the Threat of an Aging Workforce by David W. DeLong.

As people retire, they take out with them about 80% of the knowledge that they had when they were working is such a large organization.  The big question is who is responsible for retaining their knowledge after they retire?  Most likely, they are on their own!  The Knowledge Manager that they used to have at the organization is no longer there!

Here is a link to some research looking at the relationship between Aging and Knowledge ( PDF file).  If you have never heard about "PERSONAL Knowledge Management", here is a good place to start ( Wikipedia entry).


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I think one challenge in this area is that individuals have much less loyalty to the companies they work for - executives at large corporations will often change jobs every few years while chasing promotions, with little incentive to pass on their knowledge.

On the other hand, when people believe strongly in what their organization or company does, I can see them coming back to ensure that their knowledge is saved. For example, an emeritus professor who has been retired for over 20 years at my university, still comes back every year to deliver guest lectures to new students, in the hopes of passing on his insights in product design and manufacturing.

My question is, how might we enable more people to work for organizations whose missions they believe strongly in?

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Thanks Tommy. Your comment/question raises big issues that require major reforms in the "Work" super-system. Hiring is still looked at as "filling a vacancy" rather than "matching the right talent and knowledge with the right Job-to-be-done". As a result most people end up filling the wrong jobs. Switching jobs, hoping to find the right job becomes more challenging as the person gets older, making many people settle for the wrong job, awaiting their retirement! For such people, the knowledge that they gained over the years is actually a burden, that they unconsciously let go after retirement.

On the other hand, those who have the right job, retirement comes as an unwelcomed guest. For most people they no longer can use their knowledge, and begin to leak that knowledge with time. The professor that you mentioned is an example of someone that had an opportunity to prevent the leakage of his knowledge, but I think that this professor represents the lucky few who get the opportunity to maintain their knowledge after retirement.

We surely need new ideas/concepts to deal with these big issues. These ideas need not be as big :)

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I like this thread, and agree with you both Tommy and Adel. Problems with the recruiting, hiring and thriving process is something I think about a lot. I would hope to someday see a challenge like "How can we improve the processes around recruiting and developing our workforce, so that our work lives better integrate with who we are?"

As it relates to this challenge, I think we lose potential for because the current hiring and development processes emphasize easily measurable skill sets and role experience over personal qualities and potentials: entry-level positions focus on academic and skill set matches; mid-level positions focus more on a previous role match; high-level positions on pedigree matches ('peer position holders look like this').

What a candidate really knows about the character an organization, the real nature of the work, and how best to succeed with the skills you have is rarely considered, let alone measured and valued. It's no wonder it leaks when no one is looking.

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