On Thursday evening I attended a London Information and Knowledge Exchange event. The evening's speaker was Gary Colet, Knowledge and Innovation Network Facilitator at Warwick Business School and he was speaking about knowledge transfer and making it stick. When I registered to attend the event my interpretation of knowledge transfer was related to my own work i.e. I thought it would have something to do with teaching or training and making the knowledge stick in the attendees heads. What it was really referring to was how to capture and transfer the knowledge of experienced people leaving a company.
Gary started the session by sending four people out of the room and then, one by one, allowing them in . He told a short story with several key facts in it to the first person who then had to repeat it to the next person and so on. As was expected with this elaborate version of Chinese Whispers, the knowledge experienced a significant level of degradation the further it passed down the line, details were lost and people started to fill in the gaps with their own, wrong, information.
What the speaker was illustrating by this story is that if we don't want details to be lost then we should ensure important knowledge passes through as few hands as possible; the person who has it should speak directly to the person who most needs to receive it. This will help to prevent the disappearance of contextual and tacit knowledge and could, ultimately, save a lot of money.
His job is to put the right people together and to ask the right questions. The questions he asks follow the system of OPEC: open questions - probe for more information - examine it in order to validate key information and close the conversation. To demonstrate what he meant by this we were asked to work with a partner and take it in turn to use these types of questions to find out a particular topic we had chosen. It was harder to do than I thought, especially with a full room of people doing the same thing. However, I did get to find out about one LIKE member's love of music and I was able to share my interest in yoga and how I had applied some of its principles to the workplace!
While I am not involved in any way, shape or form with this type of knowledge transfer in my current professional life, I can see the importance and value it would have to an organisation. I know many organisations, including my own, hold leaving interviews - it would be interesting to discover how these happen in practice.
Attending these events is also opening my eyes to the variety of knowledge and information roles out there and it gives me a little hope that if I were to leave the academic sector there are other routes I could take and I would be working with a lovely group of interesting and dedicated professionals.