Knowledge Harvesting was developed by Larry Todd Wilson. This methodology has been successfully deployed at many organisations viz. BP Amoco, Buckman Laboratories, Abbott Labs and the Dow Chemical Company.
It all depends on how eager the organization is and accepts that, some of its invisible knowledge should be captured. It can initiate the process of identifying and documenting those knowledges which are ‘implicit’. This process can be taken forward by structured methodologies that employ interviewing techniques and a process for capturing thought processes. Knowledge management typically focuses on tacit and explicit knowledge, which can be found between the ears of the people working or in printed materials.
Implicit Knowledge is the one, which can be captured and written down once people explore the full depth of a vital process. “Knowledge harvesting” is the mature knowledge retention methodology that enables implicit knowledge to be articulated and turned into knowledge assets that help an organization improve.
Knowledge Harvesting is a process to quickly convert top-performer expertise into knowledge assets that improve organizational performance.
The "how" of knowledge harvesting follows a staged process of:
1. Focus >> 2. Find >> 3. Elicit >> 4. Organize >> 5. Package >>
6. Share >> 7. Apply and >> 8. Evaluate and adapt.
The ultimate purpose of knowledge harvesting is to capture enough details from an expert so that the target learners can understand and actualize the process and achieve good results.
This process can be applied to develop new products, capture knowledge from departing employees, or launch a new KM project. Knowledge harvesting can help address the risks of “brain drain” and capture knowledge before it walks out the door, as many industries and organizations fears.
If we need to go beyond traditional Information (Retrieval) System, Knowledge Management and Human Resource tools, it’s important to realize that this approach is available for important knowledge retention initiatives.
Knowledge harvesting employs tools, techniques and methodologies that capture these seemingly elusive thought processes and make them more generally available to the organization. Thus, the thought processes used by your best thinkers become a leverageable asset for the organization.
To accomplish this, you need the ability to dissect your ‘expert’s’ explanation of the component steps to executing a process. This process is both science and art. Most importantly it is essential that you don’t begin with previously formed assumptions, or let opinions cloud the data collection process. If we can keep an open mind, process logic or expertise can eventually be codified into a series of related modules.
Much of the success of knowledge harvesting will be in the ability of the interviewer to elicit the right level of detail from the expert. He or she should not immediately assume that the reasoning behind certain approaches or tasks is not discernable. Often, it is necessary to guide an expert through their own thought process, though the steps used to arrive at conclusions that the 'expert' believes are tacit or invisible.