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Knowledge Harvesting, Why You Need It

February 1, 2018
Written by Rachel Alexander

If you’ve ever been to Iowa in the fall, you can see the wealth of corn and soybeans that have grown tall, ready to harvest. Farmers track variables in sun, water, and temperature to ensure harvests are done at the right time, to maximize profits. It would be completely crazy if a farmer were to do all that work and then just leave the field, never reaping the benefits of their year of work. The same is true for your company knowledge. If you don’t take the time to capture knowledge from your employees, it will be lost when they leave the company.

Sharing knowledge across departments or among your team is one of the biggest challenges organizations face. Typically, knowledge lives in disparate systems, in the minds of employees, or in random file folders that are difficult to access. This is a direct result of lack of processes and procedures to gather (or should I say “round up?”), store, and share knowledge. An effective knowledge sharing strategy addresses the need to share knowledge from across the spectrum of the knowledge hierarchy, with tacit knowledge being both the most valuable and most difficult to capture. This is where knowledge harvesting comes into the picture.

What is Knowledge Harvesting?

According to IGI Global, knowledge harvesting is the process of interviewing experts, documenting knowledge, and sharing the tacit knowledge created within an organization so everyone can benefit. Once captured, it is converted into “actionable know-hows” and then transferred to others. The overall goal is to make sure that the highly sought after tacit knowledge becomes explicit, meaning it’s easily articulated, recorded, communicated, and stored.

Think of knowledge harvesting as capturing and transferring the years and years of experience of your most tenured employees. Once captured, you break that down that knowledge into digestible and comprehensible nuggets of information that new employees can learn from.  

Conducting A Knowledge Harvest

Without a doubt, knowledge harvesting will play a critical part in your overall knowledge sharing strategy. This is becoming more important as the workforce shifts. Baby boomers are retiring, and millennials are changing jobs an average of four times in the first ten years out of college. Do you have a plan of action around gathering the tacit knowledge from these two generations when they leave? If you don’t, knowledge harvesting needs to be that plan of action. The good news is that you don’t need to be a knowledge guru to conduct a knowledge harvest.

KMbestpractices.com breaks it down into three simple steps:

  1. Identification of knowledge – It’s recommended that you start the process of knowledge harvesting early. If you see someone leveraging tacit knowledge in the workplace, interview that individual right away to ensure that knowledge doesn’t get lost.
  2. Ask the right questions – To get the most out of your interview with the knowledge expert, come prepared with lots of questions to get the conversation rolling.
  3. Decide on the best way to package the knowledge – Make the knowledge that you harvest easily accessible across the organization.

The Combined Powers of Knowledge Harvesting and a Knowledge Sharing Platform

The last step of packaging and sharing knowledge is arguably the most critical step when conducting a knowledge harvest. This is also the step where a knowledge sharing platform plays a significant role.

Just like any powerful duo, when you combine knowledge harvesting and a knowledge sharing platform, you’ll have a force to reckon with. Thanks to knowledge harvesting, you are creating a repository of action-orientated knowledge that anyone can comprehend and use. By leveraging a knowledge sharing platform in tandem, you’re able to make the knowledge harvested accessible to everyone across the organization because these platforms are equipped with search, collaboration, communication, and analytical capabilities. In turn, teams are getting access the critical tacit knowledge they need to be successful in their role which can increase their productivity by 20 – 25%.

Don’t let knowledge (or vegetables) go to waste. Gather everything you need for successful harvest upfront because if you don’t, you may find yourself down to the last straw, and your knowledge will be gone forever.

Harness The Power Of Knowledge Sharing With Digital Transformation

Companies that grasp what the digital workplace is really all about are willing to change the ways people and applications connect across their organizations. By fostering a digitally driven culture of collaboration, they break down silos, share knowledge more effectively, and compete more successfully.

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