2Know Magazine: Sharing KM Knowledge
2Know: Sharing KM Knowledge
September 2019 - Magazine No. 240
September 2019 - Magazine No. 240

Last week, Tel Aviv hosted the 20th anniversary of the launching of the first book in the Harry Potter series. Much praise written and spoken regarding J.K. Rowling's series and the magical world in which it takes place.


Why link magic and knowledge retention? Simply because I view knowledge retention as a sort of magic.
The central challenge of knowledge retention is extracting the knowledge concealed in workers' heads (tacit knowledge). This knowledge is rarely documented, is based on years of experience, considered to be an asset to the organization. If it is remains tacit, this knowledge will be lost with said worker's departure. The organization might lose valuable knowledge that is usually unrecoverable. If only we had a magic wand!

In the real world, the process is mostly based on gaining the worker's trust, leading them to agree to participate. This seemingly easy task is actually quite difficult. Workers leave for various reasons: transferring to another position in the organization could be one, retirement could be another. The worker could also have been fired. Each of these reasons dictates a different position in the process of both said worker and whoever wishes to retrieve the knowledge.

Hereby are some tips that can assist such an attempt:
• Before you start the process, fully understand the background and motivation for the worker's departure and understand that their level of cooperation might be affected by these reasons.
• Formulate a list of subjects the worker handled so to focus on the central issues.
• Prioritize the subjects according to the following criteria: importance to the organization, level of documentation and uniqueness of the retrieved knowledge to the worker. The key to prioritization is a combination of high level of importance, low level of documentation and high level of uniqueness to the worker. With the right key, you're on the right path.
• Try to delve into the prioritized subjects. This is the time to try to get the worker to reach meaningful insights on these subjects. These insights may serve the organization's future generations. While this process might require several meetings, it is best to keep them as concentrated as possible. A concentrated effort beats a long and intermittent process, as the element of time is at our heels due to the worker's pending departure.
• At this point you might feel you know the worker and sense their level of commitment of the process. Trust is of key importance to the process's success. It will also improve the worker's feeling, knowing that they leave a legacy behind that will serve the organization even when they are gone.
• At the end of each meeting, it is best to process the accumulated knowledge, structure it in an orderly file so that it can be easily navigated. It is best to use a file in process, one that allows the worker to optimize the content and point out issues that require elaboration.
• Now that the document is complete, formulate a plan to make this now explicit knowledge accessible and available to all workers to whom this knowledge may be relevant.
In conclusion, knowledge retainment is a challenging process for both workers and those performing the process. However, it is highly profitable and therefore certainly worthwhile.

Knowledge Retention, from ROM's online glossary
Handling challenges in retiree knowledge retention, 2Know Magazine, July 2010


Twenty years ago, when Knowledge Management was making its first stages, two closely related terms were often discussed: Personalization and Customization.


Customization, as it meant then, dealt with adapting a general Knowledge Management solution to a specific group. Personalization focused on individual adaptation for individual workers.

Customization is associated with professional desktops, with each professional group receiving content and windows adapted to its professional needs. Personalization was brought up when discussing color themes, screen organization methods and other 'goodies' to be individually selected.
Personalization was ditched at an early stage, as it was expensive and did not provide any real value added. It mainly assisted to sell KM technologies since it made the idea and its application impressive.

Customization was also substantially reduced. We realized that too many professional units have too many individual needs, what made the adaptation unrealistic. It was also expensive, and we discovered that few fields hire several workers for the similar positions. We therefore remained with few customized desktops.


As the years went by, the meaning attributed to these terms changed. We now ask ourselves: how and where is it best to incorporate customization and how can we be more tuned to our users.

So, how does customization look nowadays? It is comprised of several levels:

Firstly, the user is our main focus. Rather then organizing portals by service providing units or subject menus, everything is organized according to the user's perception. Take for example, procedures regarding workers' trips abroad. The flight is not discussed in one chapter, rather distributed throughout three different chapters according to the worker's need: what do I need to know when initially planning my trip, ordering flights, booking a room and renting a vehicle. What do I need to do a week before my trip? What last preparations are required, how do I check in? The chapter discussing the flight itself might also include a review of common scenarios, such as what to do in case of an unexpected change requiring the worker to postpone their flight back.

This example illustrates the first type of personal adaptation: the same consideration for all users.

The second level will retrieve the same type of data from several data systems yet will retrieve the data for each user according to their settings. An organizational example is information regarding rights one is entitled to due to a status altering event. A professional example would be open tasks in an operational system: to each worker his/her own tasks.

While the second level of personal adaptation activates the same algorithm for everyone, it suggests personal adaptation based on personalized retrieval.

The third level of personalization involves managing a small personal database for each worker as part of a Knowledge Management system. This database allows you to manage favorite items or windows that the worker wishes to include in the KM application, etc. This Level allows solutions greater flexibility while retaining a similar overall framework.

Current technology enables more solutions for less effort than required twenty years ago. Furthermore, they are linked to more meaningful needs making the effort both possible and worthwhile. Regarding collective adaptation: a new term has recently arisen to address this issue: personas. What are they and how are they used? To be addressed elsewhere…


Written by Rom Knowledgeware
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