Someone in my extended family is due to give birth and it was mentioned in conversation “will need to get the family crib looked out”. Now this may seem like an innocent remark to you but to me it was a revelation. “What family crib?” was my reply.
I was then informed that about 27 years ago a crib was made and has since been used by every child born into my extended family. I was even informed that it sat at the bottom of our bed when our child used it.
I had no memory of the existence of the crib, nor that it had been used by my own child nor that it had been used by every child born into our extended family in the last 27 years. No matter what they prompted me with to help me remember, I just couldn’t recall it.
The knowledge of the creation and use of the crib was gone. It had to have existed, I was there when the crib was being used, but the knowledge of it was now gone.
When we conduct the knowledge management simulation exercise, Bird Island, we sometimes come across people who have participated in it before. On one occasion we even formed a team of them to compete against those who had never participated before. The outcome very, very, very clearly illustrated to all present that while the team who had participated before could remember the vague outlines of how to be successful, they couldn’t remember the detail and it was that very detail that made the difference between success and a less than optimum outcome.
If I ever need an example of the importance of documenting key knowledge (not everything) the episode of the crib brought it come to me, you can’t rely on memory alone.