Here is an excellent infographic from the SocialCast blog showing how knowledge management has evolved over the past few thousand years. This is pretty interesting.
But what I found even more fascinating is the lower right side of this graphic showing various knowledge management practices of today and how many (or rather, how few) companies are using these practices.
I think the practice that would be most useful but that is one of the least used is creating a map of expertise within an organization. Only 18% of companies is trying to make sure everyone can access the human knowledge capital in their organization.
Sure, a few people may know who the "go-to guy" is for using Microsoft Word. Or the one who seems to be able to answer any question about the new widget. But can this person be found by everyone? Nope, not outside his own department. Knowledgebases are great for capturing information, hopefully stemming some of the brain-drain of employees who leave with a bunch of expertise. But that isn't nearly as interactive.
Sometimes you just need the person who knows the right way to jiggle the handle. So make it easy to find her. I know we are all terribly busy and that expert is too, but the time savings of finding someone rapidly to help with something can be invaluable if a customer relationship is on the line.
It is worth it to find the time to learn who all these geniuses are and how to get hold of them. Everybody likes to show off their knowledge once in awhile. And when it can also help your customers, that's even better.
One way to start may be by surveying your employees. Ask them what they are "go-to people" for and who they use as "go-to people". Something else to try may be looking at the types of issues that arise most often and finding out who fixed it. And you can always brainstorm a list of subjects or topics that most often crop up. If you can find someone who likes keeping up with the latest on how to use Twitter for marketing, make sure everyone knows how to get in touch with her.
These experts can become the authors of articles in the knowledge base. Or founts of information about the newest version of software running the chemistry analyzer your company markets. The big thing is make them as findable as the knowledgebase articles can be.