"…the baby boomers are retiring and this will represent the single largest loss of implicit knowledge in industrial society. Enterprises MUST facilitate capturing what the baby boomers know now and lower the barriers dramatically toward capturing that information."
OK, so it's a bit of a self-serving post given that as an enterprise content management vendor, Alfresco has a stake in organizations accumulating more information.
Self-interest aside, though, he's got a point. And Web 2.0 tools would make a great way not just to preserve but also make use of the institutional and operational knowledge baby boomers possess.
At the top of the list are wikis, which are a sensible way to document things like IT processes. Every IT shop has hacks and workarounds that aren't in official manuals.
It reminds me of a story my martial arts teacher once told. He spent a couple of years in the Taiwanese military many years ago, and served at a radar outpost. The radar was pointed at China to provide early warning of an incursion from the mainland. One night my teacher and another young solider were on duty with an older officer. The officer decided to slip away for a nap. Soon after he left, the radar went dead. Not sure if this was a pre-emptive move by an invasion force, my teacher sprinted in a panic to the officer's house to wake him up.
The officer stomped back to the radar installation, looked around, and smacked a bank of equipment, Fonzie-style. Presto, the radar was back up. That's institutional knowledge.
So whether it's rebooting a router or a collection of useful scripts, a wiki can gather this information from employees into a searchable, extensible repository. It also can be pruned and updated as older technologies are phased out of the organization.
The question is, are companies doing this or taking other steps to capture institutional knowledge before it leaves the building? Drop me a line and let me know.