The Knowledge Management (KM) movement, still in its infancy, is evolving from its early history that included such concepts as collaboration, information sharing, knowledge assets, intellectual capital and other buzzwords. Technology is one reason why this evolution is happening. When the pioneers of the KM movement first started their speeches, writings and efforts to define the movement, they may not have expected to be where we are today, but there is one thing they all understood. The release of human knowledge creates more of it. People who are in leadership roles today now have the challenges of managing and leading others whose knowledge is the stuff that allows organizations to meet their mission. Nothing has changed from the early days of the KM movement, it's still about people, process and technology. The most important of these three elements is still people. All the technology in the world and processes cannot survive without people actively leading the creation and fielding of knowledge. But here's the catch, how to you retain that valuable knowledge?
There have been many professionals throughout time, going all the way back to Pluto, who have written on or about knowledge, and man's search to understand it. This article is not meant to be a history lesson about the meaning of knowledge, but rather a modern day look at how knowledge, through retention initiatives, is important for organizations to pay attention to. The economic downtown of the last year is causing many of the baby boomer generation workers to reconsider their future employment and retirement plans. This may be good news for leaders looking at knowledge retention initiatives. There is a wealth of knowledge, be it both tacit and explicit, that baby boomers possess. The challenges that plague the unleashing of that knowledge through collaboration and information sharing exist because of at least one factor learned from the marketing world. People don't buy something unless they know, like and trust the product or service being presented. In this case, knowledge leaders will be more successful in establishing and sustaining a knowledge retention program once they have workers sold on the program through effective marketing that builds the know, like and trust values of human interaction.
Any knowledge retention program that is to survive and actually accelerate the transfer of key knowledge within an organization must answer the WIIFM, (what's in it for me) question. By designing and marketing a knowledge retention program centered on answering WIIFM, organizations will be increasing the levels of knowing, liking and trusting in knowledge workers, especially baby boomers. The baby boomer generation is more accustomed to having meetings and talking at the water cooler as a means of building trust with others. Asking them to be recorded into a microphone or video camera while someone drills them with questions about how they do something or what they know about a project can be very threatening, unless the know, like and trust factors have been introduced.
The baby boomer generation has much to offer to younger workers from the GenX and millennial crowds, but they will need strong leaders who can convert them from keeping what they know to being willing and motivated to share with others without feeling that their power base is being exposed.