New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
College Industry Partnerships
Corporate Member Council
“Tribal knowledge” is a terminology commonly used in industry to describe special knowledge procured by only a handful of employees. These employees are usually senior personnel in the quality, maintenance, or control department in the organization, who have acquired expertise on a equipment, system, or process over an extended period, sometimes decades. To capture and transform this unique expertise into company’s own knowledge base, or even intellectual property, is critical for company’s sustainable growth.
With the guidance of ASEE, we as a NSF I-Corps L team conducted interviews for over 100 clients in order to discover opportunities to scale a prior NSF project on improving technology/engineering undergraduates’ diagnostic skills. A significant revelation from this customer discovery is that most of the companies admit both the potential pitfalls of, and the need to retain tribal knowledge. However, there does not seem to be a good tool and mature method that is both cost-effective and easy to implement.
The loss of tribal knowledge is particularly detrimental to small businesses. Comparing to their corporate counterparts, these companies cannot afford to prioritize addressing tribal knowledge problem. On one hand, they lack a rigorous process based on established quality standard such as ISO-9000 to document and maintain the record systematically. On the other hand, the companies usually do not have in place a good succession plan or training program for new or junior workers. Therefore, if one senior employee, whose working knowledge has not been properly retained, left the company, the loss of expertise can affect the entire business/manufacturing operation, sometimes can lead to more severe consequences.
Tribal knowledge is often connected to system troubleshooting and maintenance, and has impact on reducing system downtime, improving productivity, and providing better training to new hires. Conceptual mapping is well-recognized approach that uses both content knowledge and process knowledge to prompt users to create visual (concept) maps of a diagnostic strategy to identify technical problems in complex technical systems. In this paper, we will show a framework based on concept mapping that helps archive the tribal knowledge and provide more agile training tools for new employees. We also will introduce modules developed under this framework to demonstrate its application in power and manufacturing sectors.
Lin, Y., & Shahhosseini, A. M., & Badar, M. A., & Foster, W. T., & Dean, J. C. (2016, June), Using Conceptual Mapping to Help Retain Tribal Knowledge Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27141
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