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Knowledge Retention: more than retirees

A central and essential area in the world of Knowledge Management is the field of knowledge retention, which is meant to curate knowledge and transmit it from one generation to another, from senior workers to their juniors, to save organization values, its methods of operation and accumulated experience from going to waste during the intra-organizational transfer of power and conserving the knowledgebase on which the entire organization is built.

Organizations often transmit this knowledge orally, which naturally leads to the loss of the knowledge during its transmission. Writing is the best method for retaining knowledge and passing it on.

But what about retaining knowledge outside of the realm of business?

Retaining knowledge accumulated over the years and ancient traditions is an integral part of world history since the dawn of humankind and a critical component of every human society. Retaining religious, national, or tribal knowledge is the basis on which human societies were built and through which society and culture as we know it have evolved.

Text is the safest method for passing knowledge from generation to generation in these areas. There are several examples of this, such as the scripture of various religions: the Bible, the New Testament, and the Quran. Other similar texts include folktales such as the tales of the Brothers Grimm and the philosophical and scientific knowledge retained by ancient Greeks and Romans. Traditions that have been transmitted orally for thousands of years were put into writing to preserve them in non-tribal conditions. The Jews, for example, learn texts known as the "oral law" due to its origin.

Unlike the retention of national or religious knowledge, retaining the knowledge of an individual or family (either primary or extended) is subject to a relatively small group's view, and each group chooses if and how to pass on the knowledge and tradition.

We have the scientific tools to trace our family's lineage in our modern age. Families such as My Heritage can review our family history using the human genome, providing an overview (albeit a crude one) of our family's genealogical past. You can also build your family tree on the company website, share the data you hold with other users, and access the site's vast amount of historical data.

Another way to trace our family's knowledge is by using books that tell the story of your extended family or part of it, found in libraries worldwide. Archives are full of information that will reveal astounding knowledge of past generations if we take the time to explore. This will allow us to pass on this knowledge when the time comes as part of intergenerational transmission.

One can also research their family history using more primitive means, connecting to family values and formulating a message we would wish to pass on from generation to generation—some hike in the footsteps of a fallen relative or travel to their ancestors' homeland. Thus, we retain the memory and knowledge and connect to values such as patriotism, sacrifice, devotion, and a tradition that might have been lost due to geographical changes.

Combining the various means at our disposal to research our history as individuals, families, and nations, especially in this modern era with its information boom, allows us to find out where we came from and subsequently where we are going. It enriches us and connects us to a group larger than us, be it our nuclear family, extended family, or country. This is vital in an age in which we often feel alienated.

On a personal level, a few years ago, I first heard of my grandfather's brother, who died in battle during the Israeli independence war. Out of interest in my family's heritage, I researched his life and his role in our nation's struggle for independence. On Remembrance Day, I organized a hike for my extended family, which focused on the last year of his life, to when he fought and sacrificed his life. This is my way to commemorate his valor and values for generations to come.

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