Friday, July 09, 2010

"Who Will Care When I'm Gone?"

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Ottawa Canada, War Memorial
I was reflecting on a series of conversations I had a while back with a work colleague (let's call him "Lloyd") who was soon to retire. He had agreed to be the focal point of a proof of concept "knowledge transfer" approach.

Lloyd was a long serving employee, and was involved in a number of the organization's key functions and major corporate initiatives. He was a very good communicator, very well respected, and was able to think objectively enough to contribute to the design of how he was going to share his knowledge.

First, he and I had a series of conversations reviewing his career, experiences, accomplishments and some interesting key learnings.  Within the context of the organization we identified 5 key "knowledge domains."  We then identified 2-3 thought leaders in each domain, and I sent these people a number of probing questions intended to uncover what they thought they would like to learn from Lloyd in their respective knowledge domains. Using the responses to these questions I began to design a series of "talk show" like events, one for each domain, which would feature a host, Lloyd, and guests, all of whom would have a conversation in the knowledge domain, seeded by the preliminary questions received from the thought leaders. Anyone in the organization could attend in the audience.  After the conversation was well started on the stage, anyone in the audience would have the opportunity to ask questions and get involved in the conversation. (Dare I say Johnny Carson meets Jerry Springer?)

I was also planning on recording these events, segmenting them, and making them available via our intranet at some point on the future (I was also working on promoting the creation of a section on our intranet for "legacy pages" - profiles, histories, interviews (videos / transcripts), projects, documents etc. for retirees.

Part way through the design of the talk show events, Lloyd came to me and said that he had changed his mind, and no longer wanted to participate. I was stunned, given how active he was in the conversations / process to that point. Of course, I asked him why.

He told me he was reflecting, in large part because of my probing, on his experiences in the organization and concluded that no one would care about what he had learned or had to say. Despite my best efforts, I could not convince him otherwise.

Clearly, there is a direct relationship between the degree to which people choose to volunteer what they know, and the recognition / appreciation they will received for their effort.

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