Information may abound in organizations but unless it is captured and applied in useful ways, it has little meaning.
I define knowledge as information converted into value due to an understanding of context, process, and consequences. Knowledge capture and knowledge transfer are one of the most under-appreciated and simultaneously most crucial assets in a company. Often companies only realize this when it is too late: after staff leave or departments are restructured.
When a team morphs or dissolves because of changes in organizational structure, it is especially valuable to understand the secret sauce of what made those teams tick. Thus, it is critical to have a system in place for knowledge transfer while talented teams are at work and going through the often unruly process of creating and disseminating ideas. The why and how are just as important as what teams produce. It is necessary to make the mundane processes that are in place in a person's head transparent and accessible. Because once the person goes, that knowledge is gone.
You can approach knowledge transfer in the following ways: in terms of people, or relationships; process, i.e., how things get done; and in terms of place, where activities happen and where information is stored and is documented.
Manuals are okay. But here are three creative alternatives to boring and long PDF files that are rarely referenced. These methods dynamically describe, visualize, and document knowledge.
In the field of design thinking we are big proponents of "show me, don't just tell me." This is because as humans we are hard wired to be visual creatures: our hypothalamus triggers a fight/flight response based on taking visual inventory of a situation. So consider video-recording teammates' accounts of processes. Don't worry: these video shorts do not have to be highly produced, polished, and fancy. Use any smartphone device and have each of your colleagues record a 90-second story about a standard operating procedure. The prompt could start with the phrase,"Tell me about a time when X went well or poorly..."
Journey maps are tools that service designers and user experience (UX) designers use regularly to explore the ways a customer navigates and experiences a product, service, or system, They can also be used for you to map your team's own internal journey through a work task. Why not use a journey map to visualize that process? My favorite is the 5 Es journey map: Entice, Enter, Engage, Exit and Extend, When you plot each of the 5 Es for a given activity (e.g., developing a client brief or delivering a top-notch presentation) along a circular shape, then it speaks to a continuous improvement perspective. It also will help you to identify gaps in your procedures.
Online Visual Collaboration Tools
Finally, in a world where many organizations have virtual teams, there are so many cool collaboration tools that facilitate teaming from a distance. Most importantly, these tools allow teams to document their ideas, changes and pivots in dynamic, beautiful and visual ways. Some examples are Canva, which uses a drag and drop format to enables teams to develop all sorts of cool and beautiful layouts for presentations and internal documents by supplying access to photos, graphics and fonts. Mural and Realtime Board are whiteboard platforms that operate in real-time, simulate sticky-notes and allow for collaboration and then capture of ideas and outcomes in ways that are colorful, smart and inventoried. I've used Ziteboard, another online collaborative whiteboard platform, with Dan Roam on a live webinar to simultaneously doodle ideas we were expressing. These are just a few examples. Your team should experiment with a range of similar platforms to identify which ones work best for your needs.
The bottom line? No more excuses such as "I'm just not a creative type" to explore alternative ways to make your team's ideas part of the company's permanent record. Dive in and document!