• 3 min read

When I started out in tech (nearly two decades ago), I shared a cubicle with Beth. Beth had been with the company for years. We were the perfect odd couple: the new recruit and the nearly retired.

If I had a question, Beth had the answer. (How do I file an expense report? Who owns this product? How does that program work? Where do we keep the extra staples?) And on the very rare occasion that she didn’t have the answer, she could point me to someone who did.

Beth was my go-to person. Until she retired…

Two employees sharing a cubicle

Sharing (a cubicle and knowledge) is caring


What happens when your go-to person’s gone 👋

When Beth left, she took her many answers (and many, many plants) with her.

I was aware of how much I relied on Beth. What I wasn’t aware of was how much everyone else did too. It turns out, in a global company of 5,000+ people, Beth was everyone’s go-to person. So when she was gone, that stuff only she knew—her tacit knowledge—was gone too.

The definition of tacit knowledge

Tacit knowledge as defined by the Cambridge Dictionary


The many forms of ‘Beth’ 👤

Every organization has their own version of Beth. The IT guy who can retrieve your document (no matter how “lost” you think it is). The lifer with the legacy knowledge. The field worker who can fix anything. They’re your savants of sales. Your walking wikis of enterprise wisdom. Your subject matter experts. Your ‘Beths’ are the ones that just know things even if they aren’t codified or documented.

Tyrion Lannister might have been on to something


When Beth and I worked together, it was a different era. Cell phones weren’t smart. The internet was anything but high-speed. Corporate learning management systems (LMSs) were in their nascent form (used as platforms to deliver training and manage talent). And, as we lamented many times, we didn’t have the Matrix-style technology to plug in and download all that information stored in Beth’s brain (no matter how hard we tried to wish it into existence). All of which made it hard for the company to formally capture everything Beth knew.

But times have changed. Phones are beyond smart (and capable of shooting professional-grade videos), Wi-Fi is everywhere, and LMSs have evolved into AI-powered, multi-product learning suites . (And Elon Musk is working on that whole “brain download” thing. ..) Which means it’s easier than ever to capture, retain, and, more importantly, share valuable enterprise knowledge.

Tapping into tacit knowledge 🧠

Enterprise knowledge is like an iceberg. The tangible (documented) portion is just the tip, while the rest (the tacit portion) lies hidden in the depths of your employees’ brains. You need to enable and equip your workforce to share what they know so they can learn from each other, hone their skills, and improve performance—which is the premise behind social learning .

LMSs have matured and are capable of much more than just delivering formal training. (At least, they should be!) Your LMS should support a combination of formal and social learning, allowing you to create a digital place where people can easily access and share knowledge and information across the organization.

Break down silos with social learning 🔗 

Across the organization. That’s key. Enterprise information isn’t only stuck in people’s heads. It’s often stuck on a computer or siloed in a folder on a (not-so) shared drive that a limited group of people (e.g. a team or department) can access.

Creating a place where everyone can go to get information breaks down those silos and makes it easy to share knowledge and content across the enterprise as well as access it at any time and from anywhere. (So your sales superstar can share her super helpful tips and tricks. Your IT guru can upload how-to videos for common tech issues. Your PPT prodigy can share their pixel-perfect presentation… You get the picture.) And it does this in a way that’s permanent (because people move on) and searchable ( more on that here, if you’re interested ).

Let your stars shine 🌟 

The Beths of your organization can teach us a lot, but they aren’t the only ones who know things.

We all have some knowledge that’s worth sharing (even if it’s where to find the extra staples). When you give every employee a platform to shine like the bright stars they are, everyone wins: Your SMEs get to share and showcase their knowledge, your learners get the answers and information they need, and your company performs better as a result.

That’s the power of social learning.

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