Stop the Brain Drain: Critical Knowledge is Walking out Your Door Everyday

Voice of the Customer

Stop the Brain Drain: Critical Knowledge is Walking out Your Door Everyday

By TMCnet Special Guest
  |  July 24, 2014

Knowledge certainly doesn’t walk, but people do, and with them goes the intelligence they develop and retain from years of building your brand. This tribal knowledge is one of your most important assets. Equally important are the documents and materials in people’s bags and home computers when they exit. What should you do about this challenge?

Capture the Tribal Knowledge

This may be the most difficult task you take on next to building your brand. Why?  Because it’s typically not documented, and it’s time consuming to extract. Consider these steps:

  • Identify the key roles of individuals who possess valuable knowledge such as engineers, product management, marketing, process owners, customer interaction managers, and many IT professionals.
  • Make a list of these individuals before they consider leaving the organization. Also identify people who have left and consider bringing them in as contract resources.
  • Inform them about the need to capture their corporate intelligence and incent them to participate in a process to capture the most important knowledge they believe the company needs to have.
  • Develop a capture process. Create a team with templates to interview and document information – this will be unique to your organization.
  • Ask individuals in these key roles to document critical information in parallel with interviews – a stream of thought approach is often necessary.
  • Identify a repository, catalog, tag (News - Alert), and store the information for access by an enterprise knowledge management system enabled by knowledge management tools.
  • Keep the capture process alive and make it part of how the organization operates.
  • Start a project to develop a Knowledge Centered Support process following the methodology from the Consortium for Service Innovation  The KCS model is the recommend approach for establishing a culture based on capturing, authoring and managing knowledge.

Managing and capturing tribal knowledge will continue to be a challenge.  Implementing an enterprise approach to knowledge management will significantly reduce the problem.

Protecting Your Knowledge Assets

As you continue to manage the tribal knowledge challenge, don’t forget about the paper and terabytes of electronic information scattered around the organization. Paper-based knowledge is high risk and the biggest opportunity. Identify paper sources such as:

  • Individual file drawers with product information, business process data, and other forms of information assets – reach out to employees to identify these sources.
  • Manuals with product and instructional information.
  • Parts books and related materials that contain product details.
  • Marketing materials created using outside resources that may be electronically available.

So what to do with the paper? Establish resources and a process to scan and electronically capture and store this information. Use the same cataloging and tagging process discussed for tribal knowledge.

Mike Stokes is president of Innovate Forward Inc. (, a management consulting firm that focuses on customer interaction, customer operations, contact centers and enabling technologies. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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