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Kevin Walsh: Institutional knowledge: Don’t take it for granted

Entrepreneur’s Corner

Posted: June 1, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 1, 2011 1:55 a.m.

If you are reading this article, you might be a “lifelong learner.” That means that you value knowledge, and will continue to seek it out throughout your lifetime.

Most experts agree this is a smart way to live. Wisdom enriches the lives of those who choose to pursue it. Some search the world for the external wisdom of the universe. Others plunge deep into their personal psyche and audit themselves internally. The smartest people engage in both kinds of research.

Like individuals, organizations can be lifelong learners as well.

How does your organization fare when it comes to learning? Does it seek out knowledge from the world around it? Does it look internally at the rich lessons to be learned from its employees, and leverage that information into a way to improve organizational performance?

Or, is it a true learning organization that captures, communicates and utilizes the lore from within its walls, and examines and infuses the intelligence of the world at large?

“Organizational knowledge transfer” is an inexpensive way to expand your business. There are many ways to facilitate this.

A great way for businesses to stimulate internal learning is through “symbiotic peer coaching.” It is a process to equip individuals within an organization to become coaches and assist them with cultivating coaching relationships with colleagues.

Some of the skills involved are building trust, listening, asking provocative questions, reflecting and creating systems of accountability. Once these talents have been developed, the pairs coach each other in a manner that suits their needs. Each individual will play the role of coach and “coachee.”

An exciting method of accessing lessons from the external environment is developing cross-organizational alliances. The era of collaboration is upon us. Many industries that historically fostered highly competitive environments are discovering that partnerships can catapult results for all involved. We have many wonderful success stories in our own backyard in the Santa Clarita Valley.

The Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center houses seven “partner universities” in an unparalleled model for collaborative higher leaning. The Santa Clarita Valley Non-Profit Leadership Network consists of members representing 120 different tax-exempt organizations that understand the value of building regional alliances.

When organizations openly share information and resources, they learn better ways of operating, gain access to new resources and can establish an armada of advocates to market their brand.

An effective way for an organization to solicit internal and external wisdom simultaneously is to engage in a benchmarking endeavor. The measurement process uncovers large amounts of institutional teachings and produces an actual benchmark by which to gauge success.

In a highly confidential manner, benchmarking the areas of successes and challenges are identified and compared to other businesses within the same industry, and against all industries around the world.

The benchmarking tool that we have found to be most useful was created by a group of scientists that collect and aggregate data worldwide. The process for determining the benchmark is quite remarkable.

A cross-functional team of people is selected from each level of an organization. The individuals assess the state of each area of the business to the best of their ability. Group consensus for each item is then facilitated by a skilled external practitioner. The newly objective data is then aggregated, presented back to the organization and compared against best-in-class industry standards of world class businesses globally.

Organizational knowledge transfer is a key factor for your business to stay competitive and advance to the next level. The
Employee Training Institute at College of the Canyons can assist you in adopting these tools and becoming a lifelong-learning organization.

Kevin Walsh PsyD is the interim director of the Employee Training Institute (ETI) at College of the Canyons. Walsh’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. For more information about ETI, call (661) 362-3245 or visit our website at:


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