HARNESS-ing knowledge

September 28, 2007

One of the Cognitive Edge methodologies that Sonja and I (Aiden) have found to be building up a nice head of steam in South Africa is ASHEN. The process of eliciting the Artifacts, Skills, Heuristics, Experience and Natural Talent in the Knowledge Transfer realm has been very valuable – especially when one considers the challenges of knowledge transfer across generational gaps.

We have begun to wonder though if the methodology might be expanded on to include elements that make for a greater depth in capturing knowledge?

This thinking has emerged out of the conversations dealing with the Experience element of ASHEN. We have found value in using the Experience element to create the context around which experiences were gained i.e. to elicit stories of actual experiences where, for example, an artifact was found to be useful, or where a heuristic was developed and concretized. As is true of most stories, the retelling elicits a wealth of information regarding the context under which the knowledge was used, and we know that you only know what you know when you need to know it.

We have also found that in these stories, the experiences people speak of are very rarely individual experiences, but that they are experiences shared by a group of people. This then raised the issues of what knowledge is stored in the individual’s relations. The individual’s social network and the relationships within those networks are potential repositories for additional ASHEN aspects that have previously been untapped.

Based on this we have begun to add in the elements of Story and Relationships to the conversation around ASHEN. In wanting to create a mnemonic including these aspects, we have found that “HARNESS” is useful and speaks for itself in the process we are wanting to engage in when “harnessing” a person’s knowledge.

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The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

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