Don’t Lose Organizational Knowledge. Start Sharing Now

There’s a lot of talk and growing concern about the potential loss of organizational knowledge as Baby Boomers reach retirement age and younger workers face the prospect of heightened executive responsibilities with sometimes-meager preparation.

There are several aspects to this issue. The first is the unfortunate fact that organizations typically do not invest in training and development as a business priority. Further, although lumped together, training and development involve very different processes and timeframes.

Training typically involves learning a system or process that uses repetitive exercises to instill knowledge. It’s a closed loop system and, in that regard, the learning is finite. Online programs are ideal for training because participants can work through a series of exercises on their own time and at their own pace until they reach an endpoint–some level of competence that constitutes mastery. As a simplistic example, think of learning a foreign language.

Development involves growth of an individual in technical skill, cognitive ability, judgment, and application of knowledge. This may seem an idealistic suite of objectives, but true development promotes each. As such, there is no endpoint. As competence grows, the application of new learning creates new opportunities for additional learning and growth. Think of living in a foreign country after learning its language. This is exactly the process that young people must be immersed in to absorb and apply the knowledge of their elders.

Reflect on this for a minute and you can anticipate challenges! With four generations currently at work, imagine the differences in perspective, values, experiential knowledge of how the world works, technical expertise, and awareness of one’s self in relation to others. Transferring knowledge from today’s leaders to cadres of future leaders is no simple task.

To succeed, I believe it will take big people secure in their ability to teach and learn, eager to share their viewpoints, interested in contributing to a strong and viable future, and relatively free of the need to dominate either processes or people. It will take adults and I daresay we have a dearth of these people.

But that’s no reason not to begin. Look around your organization to find the people who are most interested in building bridges. Encourage the sharing of perspectives—we all have a different seat in the arena of life and, consequently, a different view of the action. Cultivate a true appreciation of differences. There’s a leadership challenge!

Explore successes of your organization past and present, and anticipate future possibilities. Look at the assets you have in younger workers and investigate how these assets can leverage the assets built by elders. Whether or not you’re comfortable with the notion that we’re all in this together, we really are. Let’s get busy learning from each other!

Categories: Business

About Susan Marshall

founder susan marshall

Susan A. Marshall is author, speaker and founder, whose mission is to create a stronger, more confident future, one person or team at a time.  Through personal experience and hands-on work with executives from diverse industries at all levels, Susan has had the privilege of helping thousands of people do the difficult and exhilarating work of growth.