Magazine article Talent Development

Capturing the Wisdom and Knowledge of Top Performers: Collect the Best-Known Methods from Not Just Your Retiring Knowledge Workers, but Also from a Group of Highly Respected Experts

Magazine article Talent Development

Capturing the Wisdom and Knowledge of Top Performers: Collect the Best-Known Methods from Not Just Your Retiring Knowledge Workers, but Also from a Group of Highly Respected Experts

Article excerpt

Approximately 10,000 people retire every day from the workforce, many carrying with them years of accumulated wisdom and knowledge of the organizations they helped to build. So why do leaders in so many companies reject projects involving knowledge and wisdom discovery? Some think that it is because leaders are in that "soon to retire group" and believe it will be someone else's problem. Others protest that best practice projects have fallen flat in execution, and leaders fear failure of yet another project.

Retirement gives us a great way to bring up the "fear of loss" issue. The more important goal should be discovering the best-known methods and the wisdom of our very best people and getting everyone else to adopt and demonstrate those attitudes and behaviors. Some of those "very best people" may be your most experienced, soon-to-retire types; others may be much younger but sharp, savvy up-and-comers.

What it is

Have you ever asked someone who is really good at something, "Why are you so good at [insert skill here]?" Most experts respond with either a platitude of "practice, practice, practice" or a simple "I don't know. I've always been this way." They operate at a level of unconscious competence.

In Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers: The Story of Success, he makes reference to 10,000 hours it takes to become a true outlier or top performer. The experience and wisdom of these top performers allows them to process solutions to issues much faster than less-experienced people.

New scientific methods for capturing, organizing, and leveraging expert wisdom--as we outline in The Star Factor-are now available that bring about predictable and sustainable changes in organizations.

Why it works

Because they are driven by a higher purpose, top performers have a different approach to organizing their thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors. Their wisdom emerges as they explore the truly important things that others need to know to achieve a compelling purpose and develop into top performers.

By focusing only on what the top performers said are necessary to be great, the ramp-up time for others is dramatically reduced.

Guidelines

The key to selecting the top performers is identifying the ones who are most respected for their knowledge and wisdom in the subject area. Think about the people in your organization whose best practices you want to capture. If you were in trouble in their area of expertise, would you ask these people what to do? If your answer is yes, then these are your go-to people, and others in the organization will be willing to listen to what they say because it is likely the best way.

To unlock the top performers' unconscious competence, first get them to talk about their passion-their higher purpose-for their job. When they can articulate a concise two- to three-sentence statement of this higher purpose, it frees them up to explore how to get others on a path to greatness.

You might ask, "Will my top performers share their secret sauce?" Our experience is that when you present true top performers with an opportunity to talk with their peers about what it is that makes them great, they jump at the opportunity.

Why will others want to focus on and embrace this expert wisdom? If this content is in any way forced on the organization, you will find it summarily rejected. …

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