November 24, 2009 — Vol. 2, Issue 11
Academy Holds First Knowledge Forum
Experts from NASA and around the world gathered to talk about the knowledge sharing practices of complex organizations at the Academy's first Knowledge Forum.
Leaders of project-based organizations don't often discuss ways of gathering, utilizing, retaining, and dispensing knowledge. So why convene for a full-day forum to talk about knowledge, asked Larry Prusak, Editor in Chief of ASK
In short, it is no longer possible to have a monopoly on knowledge, Prusak explained. Knowledge is decentralized and complex in nature, and smart organizations that know how to manage it will succeed. Developing and implementing knowledge strategies and gauging their effectiveness were the topics of the day for the Academy's first Knowledge Sharing Forum.
"You have to have a vision of what you want to be if you want to be anything," said Michael Zack, professor at Northeastern University. Having a knowledge strategy means aligning the knowledge an organization has with the strategy it is trying to pursue, he said.
An organization's knowledge strategy must focus on a community. "You have to have the trust of people before you go further with any efforts of knowledge," said T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer at the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Elliot added that the other two factors are defining common values within that community, and linking explicit knowledge back to the community.
However, it has become increasingly evident that simply having knowledge does not equate to having a solid strategy. You no longer want to be the smartest person in the room, said Jean Tatalias, Director of Knowledge Services at MITRE. The question is, she said, "Can you be the most connected person in the room?"
Remaining connected raises questions of technology. With a new generation entering into the workforce, knowledge sharing must find ways to exploit social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and wikis. These tools can help organizations handle the challenge of rapidly connecting new hires to the resources they need.
John McQuary, Vice President of Technologies and Strategies Organization at Fluor, said that his company focuses on introducing new hires to their online knowledge sharing platform — a one-stop shop for all of their training, education, and procedures — and encouraging them to ask questions. There is additional emphasis on getting involved in knowledge sharing activities, which are highly valued within the organization.
Telling stories is one of the most effective ways of transferring knowledge. From the Brazilian oil company Petrobras, which has brought on 25,000 new workers in the last five years, to NASA, with its ten unique centers, sharing knowledge across boundaries is vital. This is particularly important as an organization's workforce ages and a younger workforce comes online, a phenomenon familiar to both the Petrobras and NASA.
Getting people to share their stories is central to NASA's knowledge sharing efforts, said Ed Hoffman, Director of the NASA Academy of Program/Project & Engineering Leadership. Having seasoned practitioners share their legacy and show the workforce that they are a part of a special mission is a powerful way of passing on knowledge, which is critical to the long-term success of any organization.
Article by HS