!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Two Techniques for Capturing Tacit Knowledge

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Two Techniques for Capturing Tacit Knowledge

As indicated in the graphic below, knowledge capture is the step that gets the knowledge tranfer cycle underway.

This graphic comes from an article in the September 2009 issue of Chief Learning Officer. In the article, Marty Rosenheck walks the reader through all the steps in the cycle.

In detailing how to handle knowledge capture, Rosenheck suggests two tools you can use in tandem to elicit the tacit knowledge that experts in your organization bring to bear in their decision-making.

The first of the tools is a card sort:
... a group of experts brainstorm problems, issues and typical situations that they encounter and write them on index cards. They then sort the cards into categories that make sense to them, and then subcategories, creating a tree structure, which reveals the way they organize their knowledge.

... For example, these experts organize problems by how they are solved, using categories such as “communication problems with subcontractors.” The sorting task also enables the construction of a taxonomy of cases, where typical situations are categorized and sequenced from simple to complex to serve as a model for initial learning for novices.
Once you have used a card sort to categorize the various situations your experts handle, you can move on to eliciting details of how exactly they complete tasks and solve problems. For this phase of knowledge capture, Rosenheck suggests drawing up a process table.

As Rosenheck explains, a process table walks your experts through the steps and sub-steps they take in each of the previously categorized scenarios.
For each decision or action, the goal is to elicit the implicit heuristics or guidelines that the expert uses. It begins with first asking, “Why?” Then, after the first answer, which just scratches the surface, keep asking why again ... until you have gotten to the bottom of the decision. Another method is to have the expert compare this decision [for a particular scenario] to decisions in other situations, to get at the distinctions in the expert’s mind.

The remainder of the process table captures the information, resources and tools the expert uses to accomplish that task or make the decision, and how they’re used. Finally, find which other people are involved at each step and what they see as common pitfalls.

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