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with the subject "Expert Interview".
Don is the company's go-to expert on equipment and systems that were installed over the past 30 years. He knows the 'why' behind the odd configurations, procedures and workarounds. When a problem surfaces, he can recognize it instantly and fix it effortlessly. He's seen similar problems 4 or 5 times over the years. His 30-something proteges might struggle for weeks before they figure out what he already knows.
Don retires in 4 months. He's building a cabin on a lake and has no interest in contract work. Once he's gone, the next weird problem might shut you down.
What do you do?
The Brain Drain Challenge
Don's scenario is a symptom of looming baby boomer retirements. A Google search for 'brain drain' and 'baby boom' generates 50,000 hits. Reports, studies and surveys agree that a lot of America's skilled workforce will retire in the next 5 to 10 years - taking irreplaceable knowledge with them.
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that organizations are actively looking for ways to deal with the problem.
The Individual Departure Challenge
While society-wide retirement looms as a threat, experts are lost every day for more mundane reasons. Some retire. Some are promoted or transferred. Some are reassigned to other duties. Some quit to take other jobs. Sadly, some individuals get sick, injured or pass away. These normal, individual-level losses can leave a big intellectual hole. Handling these routine, individual losses poses an ongoing challenge and it would make sense to look for generic tools to elicit critical knowledge from departing people and store it where it can be accessed by others.
Unfortunately, cost-effective knowledge capture has proven elusive. Much of the most valuable knowledge is tacit. The experts may not fully understand what they know or how they subconsciously apply it. Worse, departing individuals are short-timers. They may be willing to leave their knowledge, but they don't want to struggle to do it. If you ask them to write a detailed manual or report, don't be surprised if it's unfinished when they leave.