Expert Knowledge Capture “State-of-the-Practice” Review, 07-9501

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Principal Investigators
Lorin Peck
Thomas E. Nielsen
Michelle Hess
Doretta E. Gordon

Inclusive Dates:  07/09/04 – 05/09/05

Background - Many organizations are in danger of losing valuable knowledge because of staff retirements and attrition. Because of an aging workforce, many organizations have retirement-eligible populations as high as 50 percent. Expert wisdom and knowledge represent an investment of the employee's career and loss of this valuable knowledge could be devastating to an organization. To extend the return on this investment, Southwest Research Institute identified a need to capture valuable expertise in such a manner as to make the knowledge reusable in many formats and venues. Prior to embarking on this undertaking, a review of current initiatives was required to identify practices, lessons learned, tools, and innovations in the area of expert knowledge capture (EKC).

Approach - SwRI conducted a review of technical and academic literature in the areas of knowledge management and expert knowledge capture. Organizations involved in the process of expert knowledge capture were identified and their activities reviewed. Technical systems and applications used in capturing expertise were reviewed. A final report was developed that summarized the findings on knowledge management and expert knowledge capture, and a planned process for conduct of EKC was identified.

Accomplishments - Based on this study, the research team created an expert knowledge capture process model. The model outlines four areas: 1) knowledge-sharing culture, 2) capture, 3) code, and 4) share. The EKC process model was piloted in a study for a military electronics repair shop in danger of losing valuable knowledge as a result of employee retirements. During the study, more than 60 percent of its workforce was retirement eligible. Because of the small shop size and the specialized skill set, loss of expertise could have brought production to a halt.

Using the EKC process model, SwRI captured, coded, and shared twelve process orders, representing expert knowledge from four subject matter experts on two critical processes. Based on this study, the Institute is under contract to conduct expert knowledge capture for a military command organization. This current work will include the creation of a repository for storing the knowledge objects as well as user interfaces to allow for ease of submission, coding, storage, and sharing of the reusable expert knowledge.

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