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Employees Must Create Knowledge - Not Just Share It    [Date Added : 09/04/2017 ]
Many leaders see organizational learning simply as sharing existing knowledge. This is not surprising given that this is the primary focus of educational institutions, training programs and leadership development courses. It is the "sage on the stage" model, in which an expert shares what they know with those who are assumed not to know it. These "best practices" are presumed to work in a variety of different contexts and situations.

As John Hagel III and John Seely Brown write in the Harvard Business Review, this view of learning was the key driver of "knowledge management systems" that came into vogue in the 1990s. These systems sought to make existing knowledge more accessible to those who might need it in the form of knowledge repositories that collected and indexed documents as well as directories of expertise that could point employees to others who had relevant know-how. The obvious focus here: efficiency at scale.

Without diminishing the value of knowledge sharing, Hagel and Brown suggest that the most valuable form of learning today is actually creating new knowledge. Organizations are increasingly being confronted with new and unexpected situations that go beyond the textbooks and operating manuals and require leaders to improvise on the spot, coming up with new approaches that have not been tried before. In the process, they develop new knowledge about what works and what does not work in specific situations. Hagel and Brown believe that the old, "scalable efficiency" approach to knowledge needs to be replaced with a new, more nimble kind of "scalable learning." To foster the latter, managers should understand five essential distinctions:

1. Explicit versus tacit knowledge
2. Individuals versus workgroups and networks
3. Learning versus performance improvement
4. Learning versus unlearning
5. Skills versus capabilities

Scalable learning requires leaders and employees to challenge conventional beliefs about learning, beliefs that were fostered in much more stable times. If we truly understand the new forms of learning that our rapidly changing world requires, we will need to be prepared to re-think all aspects of our organizations, including our strategies, operations and the ways we organize our resources.

("Help Employees Create Knowledge - Not Just Share It," by John Hagel III and John Seely Brown, Harvard Business Review, August 15, 2017. Copyright 2017 Harvard Business School Publishing)
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