Unstructured Knowledge: The Challenge of Our Time

“Unstructured knowledge is the challenge of our time!” So says an article by Ricoh Americas Corp. and I can’t help but agree. I have been shouting this from every roof-top for some time now. I even wrote a book and numerous articles about how to solve the problem of “unstructured knowledge.”

Key word is unstructured, meaning: Lacking a definite structure or organization; not formally organized or systematized.

Are you familiar with an “organization” like that?

Ricoh predicts this untapped asset—“Unstructured Knowledge”—will be a key factor for companies in the next five years and beyond. The Ricoh article says this unstructured knowledge “consists largely of conversations, communications, unsearchable documents, processes, practices, strategies and cultural norms,” and states that “organizations are generally UNABLE to harness these assets today.”

The term I have been using to define “Unstructured Knowledge” is CHAOS, caused by a lack of simple, common sense systems.

Many organizations have:

  • NO written Standard Operation Procedures, organized into an up-to-date Operations Manual.
  • NO apparatus—i.e., a Corrective Action System to identify and track root causes for non-conformances, nor to measure the waste in time and dollars.
  • NO continual improvement system to harness what Ricoh describes as “Unstructured Knowledge.”
  • NO user-friendly, easily-accessible system that gives employees the tools they need, in order to do their job without constant supervision by management.

The Ricoh article shares that, “Baby Boomers” are retiring and their business knowledge is leaving with them. Organizations that fail to adequately capture this knowledge, while it’s available to them, risk having customers leave ALSO, in order to find more nimble companies with which to do business.

One of my more recent blogs addresses the loss of knowledge when a key employee leaves an organization. You may want to read that article also…When Systems Walk Out The Door.

Philip Beyer, founder/president of Beyer Printing and Ebiz Products LLC in Nashville, TN, is a chronic entrepreneur, business systems analyst and consultant, author of "System Busters: How to Stop Them in Your Business," and an InterTech Award recipient for the design and development of System100™ business process management software. Philip speaks to business owners across the country on how to bring lean, sustainable order to their businesses.
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