What are the intellectual assets of your organization? Better yet, who are the intellectual assets of your organization? These are your “knowledge brokers”. They are the main “know how” individuals, whose loss (as in brain drain in the form of a resignation) would prove fatal to an area of your business. How do you determine your main business processes and measure the extent to which experts effect their operations? Above all, how do you capture the seemingly impossible subject matter expertise trapped in their minds? That’s a real head-scratching dilemma!
First things first, like a true eLearning developer, let’s go for a systems approach to determine the key business processes of your company and the dwelling points of your intellectual assets. Once we establish that, we need to determine how to tap into their minds and create an osmotic gradient: move knowledge from where it is highly concentrated to where it is needed, through the eLearning channel.
The one sting that hurts a training manager the most, is a failed eLearning program. This is especially true, when the project was highly requested, highly recommended and highly budgeted. And to hit where it hurts the most, you as a learning program developer had acquired some new eLearning skills on the way. You actually had some bragging rights! But, guess what? The reviews were mixed (are they trying to be polite?). What went wrong?
Let’s investigate how things can be done differently.
Determine your Value Focus
What that essentially implies is, determine the business focus of your organization. Look into these three, where do you think yours applies?
- Organizations focused on Customer Intimacy strive to shape their products and services to match their customers’ needs as closely as possible. This means getting to know as much about their customers as possible, and making their customers feel they are being looked after. To follow through with this approach companies will invest in systems to collect information about their customers, including CRM, Data mining, Business Intelligence, etc.
- An Operational Excellence approach involves minimizing overheads, eliminating intermediate production steps, optimizing business processes, etc. Organizations focused in this direction will invest in systems such as Best Practices transfer, TQM, BPR, Process Improvement, etc.
- The Product Leadership organizations strive continually to have state-of-the-art products or services, requiring a highly creative environment and the ability to bring new ideas to market quickly. These companies will choose Knowledge Management strategies supporting Communities, Collaboration, Discussion Forums, etc.
Can’t decide clearly?
Consider using the SWOT Analysis (Strength, Weakness Opportunities and Threats) for your organization to determine your products and services. Personnel working on the successful products and services are your intellectual assets. Similarly, personnel working on your weaker products and services are in dire need for training.
List the (major) knowledge-intensive or knowledge transfer activities undertaken by the organization, looking initially for those that match the primary KM type identified above. Try to sort these into order of importance to the organization’s mission. Then, for each of these activities, identify:
- The Knowledge Assets used
- The nature of these Assets (explicit, implicit or tacit)
- The location, form and quality of these Assets
Try to determine if product leadership, operational excellence or customer intimacy is your goal. This exercise is excellent to narrow down your knowledge gaps.
Revise your organizational strategy. How closely do gaps and goals pair up? Now is a good time to review your organizational strategy. Align your mission with training. To refine your goals further, consider asking the right experts the following questions.
- Would your organization fail to survive if it didn’t have good relationships with/information about its customers?
- Would your organization fail to survive if it didn’t have state-of-the-art products?
- Would your organization fail to survive if its processes were carried out inefficiently?
- Do you offer standardized or customized products?
- Do you have a mature or innovative product?
- Can you think of any products on the market that are ahead of yours?
- Can you think of any business processes that could be improved?
- Can you think of any areas where better relationships with/information about customers would improve business performance?
Create eLearning Programs with Intellectual Assets
Based on the answers you get from each intellectual individual (asset), you can put together a performance-based eLearning program. What have we established here? We have explicitly worked out a way to extract knowledge from the deeper recesses of the minds of the experts within your organization.
Why the need for explicit knowledge retrieval from persons responsible for the organization? Before you doubt the loyalty of your experts, hang on!
Knowledge sharing is a social phenomenon. It occurs only in the right environment. It happens in casual settings. All the precious experience gained by experts is involuntarily held back in their minds due to a variety of reasons. Most of them are social. Some experts fear “losing their edge” if they share their “secret tricks”. Some don’t trust peers or associates enough. Some are hesitant on account of being “judged”. Some are all about impressions. These fears can be dissipated by creating a knowledge-sharing culture through collaboration tools of your learning management system. The key is to encourage top management to get involved in this knowledge sharing process.
By receiving specific and business-centric responses to the above questions, you can be sure that you have the right content and learning goals for your next eLearning goals.
Knowledge Management tools adapted from Journal of Knowledge Management Practice “Choosing Your Knowledge Management Strategy”