Boiling the ocean for salt is expensive. Using evaporation to get salt isn’t. It is time for a consideration of Tacit knowledge capture systems…

As a long time blogger I realize I have themes that resonate and themes that thud. The ones that thud are normally the things that interest me. The one’s that resonate are the things that catch on and I get emails about that blog (many emails). The theme lately has been the dawn of (or nearly dawn of the information age) and the information that is slowly disappearing from the workforce.

I posted a Linkedin blog about this topic roughly 5 days ago. That post has gotten a good conversation started around the concept of retiring information. One of the private messages I’ve gotten about that post and this series is the data I am seeking. Tacit knowledge is hard to capture. The reality of tacit knowledge is that ultimately it fits as much the original concept of big data as anything. I know the reality of big data is really data analytics. But the definition of big data as frequently used is data that is larger than the processing capability. Tacit knowledge has a capture and once captured a search ability issue. If you consider that the 10.x billion Cyber Physical Systems (IoT) deployed today produce 110 zB of data (zeta bytes) how much data that doesn’t exist in computers exists in the heads of human beings (7.x billion). If I say the “Red Wheel Barrow” by Ezra Pound, you have the text of that poem. Then you have the impact of that poem on you, plus how you felt the first time you read it. Or how you feel about poetry in general and so.

Big data rapidly becomes overwhelming data. If you think about the human being and all the tacit knowledge we have, there are systems in our heads today that solve a number of data problems. We have a built in tracking system (look at a picture of a group of people, rapidly pick out the people you know). We have a sound search built into our brains (ah listen to that bird, where is it, turn on tracking system, oh the bird is in that tree there to the right). All of this is tacit based on the person but shared in the sense that all of us have the innate capability to do this.

So to stop some of the private messages I am not asking for a system that captures all tacit knowledge. I am simply saying that on the cusp, the edge, the precise of the dawn of the information age, we need to do a better job capturing essential information. When I designed the digital lifecycle management system (DLM) that was the goal of the system. I have chased knowledge management for years. The problem? There is a lot of knowledge and a reluctance to put it on paper. Yesterday I talked about some of the reasons why, this isn’t about the why of KM. This is about the mechanics.

Figuring out what knowledge is essential is the goal of the data capture system. In my DLM system there were of SME’s that evaluated data and pulled it into the system for later reuse. Every company I’ve ever talked to (and every government agency) say’s the system is too expensive. They are right of of course there is cost to such a system. Of course there is also a cost of mistakes, and cost to lost information. Both of which can be reduced by implementing the DLM system.  To create an information ecosystem where there is perceived and real value in adding information to the system.

The smartest guy in the room, just retired. In fact the 2nd and 3rd smartest people in the company are on vacation. So the problem you have to solve gets solved, but it takes more time and more people. Why? Because you let all that tacit knowledge go. It brings to a value proposition for my DLM system. Capturing essential information. It could be done today and actually fairly cheaply. The conversion process for voice to text isn’t hard. Creating a search engine that can search images, text and voice/video also isn’t hard. Facial recognition software is out there today. It tends to be expensive (due to the nature of the hardware) but it is there. Voice search is there (hey Siri, I would like to have Italian food for lunch). What we need now is the ability to search all videos and audio files we have for both words. I.e. give me all media that mentions both Ocean Liners and Chinese Junks.

It is not self-promotion to say we need to capture this information. It is organizational preservation. I have spent most of the past two years writing down, sharing and publishing all of the memories and pictures of my family. Why? Because that information needs to be shared. It is essential to me. The DLM system was built to leverage both the intent of user and the SME in harmony. A SME may see something as not essential, but once in the system it stays in the system. IF later it becomes essential it is already there.

Such a system would ultimately cost money to setup. But the money it would save over the course of 10 years is staggering. The economic benefit of faster problem resolution mapped to greater reliance on a system that solves problems quickly would be amazing.


DLM proponent, KM dreamer!