How can you transfer learning from one time and place to another? Imagine you have just been through a tremendous learning experience, and would like to help other teams facing the same challenge in future. How can you package that knowledge in such a way that you can transfer it to others? Or imagine you are embarking on a new and challenging activity? How can you collect and collate the knowledge you need, in a usable format? One answer to this problem is to build a Knowledge Asset. This is a tried and tested approach to capturing operational knowledge, plus the context needed to make sense of it.
Knowledge Assets consist of guidelines, set within business context, enlivened by stories and quotes from experience, and linked to people and documents for further investigation. The role of knowledge assets in knowledge management is to provide the means by which one team or person can transfer their knowledge to many teams or people, separated in time and distance. Although the most effective mechanism for knowledge transfer is face to face; this is not always possible to arrange. Your knowledge management system should provide the means to transfer knowledge between people, even if the timespan between capture and use is years. A knowledge asset can usefully be hosted on a Wiki or in a Knowledge Base.
Setting the context. You need to be very clear about the purpose of the knowledge asset, and also who the customer for the knowledge asset will be. The customer will often help define the scope and purpose. Once you have purpose, scope and customer, you need to make sure you have the resources needed to complete the exercise.
Capturing the knowledge. You need a process for accessing the knowledge within peoples' heads, and the most effective processes are those based on dialogue; either dialogue within or between teams, or dialogue between an interviewer and an interviewee. Capturing knowledge therefore requires:
Setting out the contents of the knowledge asset. A knowledge asset can be built from the experiences of a single project team, or by collating knowledge and experience from many teams. The contents of a knowledge asset may include some or all of the following -
Distilling out the lessons. The analysis and distillation step consists of looking back at what happened, and turning this into forward-looking advice for the future. Lessons can be presented as recommendations for the future, or as questions which future users should ask themselves, or in the simplest case, as a checklist for future users to follow. Use the transcripts from the knowledge capture process to derive quotes, which answer the questions (or illustrate the recommendations), which can then be grouped into themes. During a long knowledge capture process, such as a Learning History, analysis can be run in parallel with the later interviews.
Validating the lessons. Any lessons, recommendations or questions/answers derived during the distillation phase need to be validated with the project team, and with the wider community of practice. Choice of formats There are a number of possible ways to lay out the questions/recommendations and quotes,
Choice of media. Different people learn in different ways, and the richer the medium, the more easily knowledge is transferred. Although your knowledge asset will probably be text-based (unless you are creating a video), you should consider including pictures, audio and/or video, depending on your available bandwidth and technology.
Publishing the knowledge asset. The knowledge asset needs to be placed somewhere that knowledge customers can find it in the future. Publish it in "community space", and let the community of practice know that it has been published. The advantage of publishing it on a community wiki is that community members can then edit the asset further. Knowledge goes out of date if it is not kept fresh. Seek feedback on your knowledge asset, appoint a Knowledge Owner for the asset, and make sure the asset is updated regularly.
Embedding the knowledge in business activity The work processes of the company need to be updated, based on the new learning. Update processes, rules and procedures, training courses, and the artifacts of the workplace.