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Thursday, March 08, 2007

It happens on Mars - why not your organisation!

A friend of mine highlighted a recent article from Australia regarding work done at NASA about training new teams to operate the two Mars rovers, Opportunity and Spirit. Granted their process takes over 12 months ‘apprenticeship’ and requires learning many of the systems associated with the rovers to ensure they have the context require to successfully operate the vehicles.

The process is a kind of apprenticeship, where observation, study, and supervised practice combine to pass on knowledge and skills that book learning or theoretical discussion alone could never teach. We think this is the only effective way to teach the complex and subtle skills a rover driver needs.

The NASA ASK Magazine is an interesting knowledge sharing initiative that communicates success storiesintended to share good practices and lessons learned with fellow practitioners across the Agency. ASK stands for ‘Academy Sharing Knowledge’. The underpinning philosophy is that:-

stories recounting the real-life experiences of practitioners communicate important practical wisdom. By telling their stories, managers, scientists, and engineers share valuable experience-based knowledge and foster a community of reflective practitioners.

One of my beliefs regarding knowledge sharing is that we understand more from stories told by people than we do by reading it off a document held in a database. Stories provide us with an opportunity to tap into the deep tacit knowledge that people have in their heads. The stories also humanise knowledge and make it more real in peoples minds.

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