Tribal Knowledge, ‘Hidden’ Information and Social Networking

Written by Craig Rode.

I was listening to the radio the other night on my way home from the office, and heard a story about manufacturing. It concerned a local large manufacturer, and its concern about engineers. Apparently, it anticipates having ten thousand engineers retire in the next ten years, and is very concerned about the availability of replacements.

Leaving aside the difficulty of finding that many engineers, I see a real onboarding challenge here. Much of what engineers (or most knowledge workers) do and how they do it is not really captured in structured processes or systems. There’s a lot of folklore, or tribal knowledge, in how things are done. When manufacturing companies bring in new knowledge workers, how do they find this ‘hidden’ information? Companies that do not have a strategy for dealing with unstructured data have a real challenge in front of them.

If your company is growing, and it looks like finally manufacturing companies are beginning to hire again, it’s worth examining the tools and processes that are used. Are they the kinds of tools that new college graduates are used to using? Can information be easily found? Is your IT department up to the challenge of the consumerization of IT, where people will insist on using their own laptops, tablets, and mobile devices? How about social networking as a mechanism for finding information for the new workers?

As we bring younger new workers into our companies, we have to start thinking about our how our IT infrastructure can accommodate them.

// CR