You are surrounded by knowledge in your AEC firm. If you reflect for a few minutes, you’ll likely agree that not all of that knowledge is equal. Some knowledge in your firm is commoditized and easily replaced when people leave the firm. Some knowledge is outdated, wrong, and/or irrelevant, not missed when experts retire. However, there is another category of knowledge which comprises unique, hard-won, experience-based knowledge, which is essential to the success of your firm today, and in the future. Knowledge Management professionals call this “Critical Knowledge.” Critical Knowledge is the high-hanging fruit in your firm, located deep in the brains of your wisest people.
From September of 2016 through April of 2017 Knowledge Architecture sponsored an eight-month research project into Critical Knowledge Transfer. Dorothy Leonard, Chief Advisor of the Leonard-Barton Group and Professor Emerita of the Harvard Business School, led four firms—Shepley Bulfinch, SMMA, Dewberry, and HGA—in this project.
Below you will find Knowledge Architecture’s Critical Knowledge Collection, a boxed-set if you will. This KA Connect talk collection shares the individual experiences of each participating firm, as well as a deeper dive by Dorothy Leonard into the theory and practice of Critical Knowledge Transfer.
By watching these talks we hope you will walk away with a well-rounded perspective of the complex challenge of transferring Critical Knowledge, various Critical Knowledge Transfer strategies, and inspiration to move forward more effectively with Critical Knowledge Transfer within your firm.
Experiments in Critical Knowledge Transfer at Shepley Bulfinch
In the fall of 2016, Shepley Bulfinch embarked upon an initiative to identify pockets of scarce, important, and hard-to-replace knowledge within their practice. Jim Martin shared lessons learned from the discovery process, approaches for capturing critical knowledge, and tactics for disseminating it to others in the firm.
Seeking Our Higher Gear: Elevating Performance Through Ethnography
SMMA wanted to help their people understand why experts behave the way they do and how the systematic flow of this knowledge within their organization could help guide professional development in new ways while accelerating the firm’s advancement. Through trained ethnographers, SMMA investigated confronting their talent predicament by providing their people with more implicit knowledge and “Deep Smarts.”
Panning for Gold: Finding Critical Knowledge Mid-Stream at Dewberry
Capturing the deep smarts of a retiring subject matter expert requires a little finesse, a lot of convincing, and about three dozen stories told by people he’s influenced and taught. This talk details how Dewberry, through storytelling and understanding what mattered most to the recipients of the subject matter expert’s wisdom, was able to identify what business critical experience to capture, and shares the tactics they used to capture it.
Principles of Design Behavior: A 360° View of Knowledge
HGA’s Critical Knowledge Transfer goal was to articulate the principles and behaviors that their design experts believe are essential to design excellence—both to engage clients and to transfer the knowledge to others in the firm. Using a smart questioning methodology, HGA interviewed four senior design architects and the people who work with them most to begin to uncover the DNA of HGA’s design experience.
Deep Smarts and Core Capabilities
The continued success of our companies depends upon the critical knowledge of key personnel at all organizational levels. Extensive research on the expertise of experienced, deeply smart individuals, reveals common characteristics and skills across industries and roles. Dr. Leonard explores the nature of this often undocumented know-how and how it can be nurtured and transferred.