Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Why Knowledge Transfer (KT) is not as easy as Fund transfer (FT)?

Those in IT industry - there is a familiar phrase called "Knowledge Transfer" or popularly known as KT. Having genesis in IT services industry this phrase was coined to indicate a training process between someone who is considered as SME (subject matter expert) and someone who is receiver of the training.

Typically happens between client side SME and an engineer/analyst from vendor side. In the early days of outsourcing between US and India - you could hear this term in all client and management meetings. "How is KT going on", "when are we completing KT and start doing work",  "Client SME does not have enough time to complete KT".

In its new avatar - this KT make its way into cross training within the team and breaking "key person dependency". 

I always wondered how knowledge is transferred between two individuals or one individual and a group of individuals? What knowledge we are talking about? What is knowledge after all? What it means to know anything? How do we measure level of knowledge that one person has at any given point of time.

These questions took me to the idea of Tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge.

From Harry Collin's Tacit knowledge book 

"Much of what humans know we cannot say. And much of what we do we cannot describe. For example, how do we know how to ride a bike when we can’t explain how we do it? Abilities like this were called “tacit knowledge” by physical chemist and philosopher Michael Polanyi, but here Harry Collins analyzes the term, and the behavior, in much greater detail, often departing from Polanyi’s treatment.

In Tacit and Explicit Knowledge, Collins develops a common conceptual language to bridge the concept’s disparate domains by explaining explicit knowledge and classifying tacit knowledge. Collins then teases apart the three very different meanings, which, until now, all fell under the umbrella of Polanyi’s term: relational tacit knowledge (things we could describe in principle if someone put effort into describing them),  somatic tacit knowledge (things our bodies can do but we cannot describe how, like balancing on a bike), and collective tacit knowledge (knowledge we draw that is the property of society, such as the rules for language). Thus, bicycle riding consists of some somatic tacit knowledge and some collective tacit knowledge, such as the knowledge that allows us to navigate in traffic. The intermixing of the three kinds of tacit knowledge has led to confusion in the past; Collins’s book will at last unravel the complexities of the idea.

Tacit knowledge drives everything from language, science, education, and management to sport, bicycle riding, art, and our interaction with technology.  In Collins’s able hands, it also functions at last as a framework for understanding human behavior in a range of disciplines."

This post from Michael Bolton takes the ideas around "tacit knowledge" and "explicit knowledge" using very entertaining video where kids give written instructions to make peanut butter sandwich  to their dad. See what happens.

Time to learn more about this....

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