The Learning Technologies 2019 exhibition wasn’t just interesting for all of the stands showcasing the latest advances. (Check out last week’s post for more on that.) One of the great things was the large number of seminars throughout the day. This meant that even those not attending the main conference were able to get a flavour of proceedings and hear a bit more about the current direction of L&D.

What’s more, Towards Maturity set up some round table discussions on their stand. They invited speakers from the main conference for an hour’s informal discussion. And they provided pastries. I took part in a discussion, along with participants from a range of businesses of different sizes and sectors, with keynote speaker Jane Bozarth. The topic was:

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How can L&D support the sharing of tacit knowledge?

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I came across the session almost by accident, but was keen to join. Sharing knowledge and experience is exactly what Rhizome Live is all about. I was interested to learn about different approaches and strategies.

Hold on, what's tacit knowledge?

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You

Tacit knowledge is all of the stuff that you need to do your job which isn’t formal and it isn’t in any of the written processes. But without it, doing the tasks you do everyday would be very difficult or even impossible. Bozarth suggested thinking about it as all the things that someone picking up your role tomorrow would actually need to know to get the job done.

The discussion was quite wide ranging, but a couple of things really stood out.

A lot of tacit knowledge is about relationships

Who do you need to know? And what do you need to know about them? Sometimes, getting things done is about having a good relationship with someone. Then they will be more willing to help you out when they are busy, or when that help is technically outside their remit.

Building those relationships can take time, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Take a couple of minutes to chat with people, and really listen to what they have to say. And then remember it the next time you see them. Make them the odd cup of tea, and say hi when you pass in the corridor. You never know when that positive relationship will come in handy, and who knows, you might even form a genuine friendship.

L&D needs to find ways to capture the knowledge that is in peoples’ heads

This might sound obvious, but in practice it can be very difficult. Why should someone make time in their day to write down the minutiae of what they do? Especially when tacit knowledge is often the kind of thing that we don’t tend to be very conscious of. Now you are asking someone to make time, and put in a lot of effort. And then who is going to find what they have written, how, and are they really going to read it?

Bozarth had a few tips for getting started:

  • Getting people talking is the key. It is much easier to explain outloud and demonstrate than it is to write everything down.
  • Use images to start a conversation. It is often easier to talk about something you can see.
  • Start a video library. Ask employees to video themselves doing something or explaining something. That could be a screen capture, or just on their mobile. This is quick, easy and more engaging than a couple of sides of A4. And it means that this person only has to explain once, saying them time too.
  • Appeal to their ego. Give people a platform and some encouragement, and they are usually happy to talk about what they do. Try starting with “Bob, you are the best person at this. Can you tell me how you do it?”

Lizzie Evans - Learning Consultant, Rhizome Live

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