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Critical Knowlege Transfer

What Happens When Your Company's Deep Smarts Walks Out the Door?

 

Dorothy Leonard, Critical Knowledge Transfer, interviewed by Peter Clayton, TotalPicture Radio Dorothy Leonard

When highly skilled workers,  subject matter experts, engineers, top sales talent, managers - leave their organizations, they take with them years of hard-earned, experience-based knowledge - much of it undocumented and irreplaceable. Organizations can thereby lose a good part of their competitive advantage. Everyone talks about "our people are our most important asset." Well, if that's true, why do so few companies make an effort to document and preserve the "brain trust" before it's gone?

Welcome to Leadership Channel Podcast on TotalPicture Radio this is Peter Clayton. My host today is CEO Advisor and frequent TotalPicture Radio contributor David Dalka, who leads a fascinating conversation on this timely and important topic. Joining David is Dorothy Leonard and Gavin Barton, coauthors (with Walter Swap), of Critical Knowledge Transfer, Tools for Managing Your Company's Deep Smarts, published by Harvard Business Review Press.

Gavin Barton, Critical Knowledge Transfer, interviewed by Peter Clayton, TotalPicture Radio Gavin Barton

The tsunami of "boomer" retirements has created the most visible, urgent need to transfer corporate knowledge and know-how to the next generation. We are still digging out from eight years of a recession here in the United States. And today there is also an ongoing torrent of acquisitions, layoffs, and successions-not to mention commonplace promotions and transfers-all of which involve the loss of essential expertise.

Dorothy Leonard and Walter Swap first addressed this acute loss of knowledge in their groundbreaking book Deep Smarts, published in 2005. Since then, HR leaders, senior executives and managers have repeatedly asked them for practical, proven techniques that will help transfer those deep smarts-the organization's critical, experience-based knowledge- a company's DNA, before it's too late.

 


Questions David Dalka asks Dorothy Leonard and Gavin Barton in this Podcast:

Since 52% of the executives polled in your research were doing little if anything about your topic, let's get some background on the topic:
What is knowledge?
What knowledge is critical?
When is knowledge critical to transfer?

Author Nomi Prins wrote a book where she visited almost all of the Presidential Libraries. She stated that the records in the libraries were meticulously maintained until the late 20th century where there was a large drop in the quality of the organization of the information. What is your reaction to this observation in regards to critical knowledge transfer and is this broader trend?

If that is true, doesn't one have to clean up the messes of the organization before critical knowledge can be transferred?

You talked in the book about how this applied to Hurricane Sandy....please share that example...

In your opinion, what is the downside of not taking action?

What do executives need to do differently to fix that?

Do people need to hire more experienced people?

Thought about through the right lens, shouldn't this be a major corporate governance issue?

In Chapter 9, you have a section that asks "Does the organizational culture support knowledge sharing?"

What are the triggers that make the executive care about this topic?

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Peter Clayton

About Peter Clayton

Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.

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