Many of the knowledge management forums that I participate in focus on the operational aspects of knowledge management. For example, on one of them there is a lot of discussion about ‘best tools to use in knowledge harvesting’. The unstated assumption is that knowledge harvesting is a good thing to do.
From a company perspective knowledge harvesting makes a lot of sense. It is part of the process to ensure that key knowledge is identified and managed. It isn’t a last minute thing but something that is proactively managed as part of the overall knowledge management activities of the company. Waiting until an announcement has been made that someone is leaving (either voluntarily or not) isn’t the way to go about it. I have already written at length how I think this should be done. You can get it for free from the Knoco web site.
While there is lots of stuff written about how to do knowledge harvesting, it isn’t very often that you read things from the perspective of the person who has the knowledge which made the following that much more interesting.
I was alerted to a thread in a construction forum that gave the participants view of knowledge harvesting. It didn’t make very pretty reading. Was their knowledge being harvested or was their IP being ripped off. The post started with someone expressing concern that their current employer was going to suck their brain for their experience. The concern seemed to be that while the contract required them to participate, they thought that they were going to participate in an informal chat, not a two hour structured interview. They expressed that they didn’t mind sharing the ‘what’ and ‘why’ but not the ‘how’. The fact that the person had only been there for three months seems to be a major contributor to the irritation.
One of the contributors mentions a rather well known organisation (I won’t mention the name as I have no way of verifying what the contributor says) who wanted to hire them not just to do the job but to share their knowledge of how to do the job. They would then create an in-house university based on their knowledge. The contributor seemed to be happy being hired to do a task but not have his knowledge used to create an in-house university.
The posts then change to giving advice to participate in the knowledge harvesting exercise but keep it high level and not provide the details. They suggest as the people weren’t involved in the work they won’t be able to tell if they are getting the appropriate level of detail or not.
Reading the post was an object lesson in how not to manage knowledge and how not to have an engaged workforce.
For all of us involved in knowledge harvesting exercises it is a warning. We need to ensure that there is a balance between the benefit to the company and to the individual.