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If Only We Knew What We Know: The Transfer of Internal Knowledge and Best Practice Hardcover – November 10, 1998

4.5 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Responding to the familiar observation that what you don't know can and will hurt you, American Productivity and Quality Center leaders Carla O'Dell and C. Jackson Grayson Jr. have countered with a contention that the "hidden reservoirs of intelligence that exist in almost every organization" can, with work, be efficiently tapped "to create customer value, operational excellence, and product innovation--all the while increasing profits and effectiveness." If Only We Knew What We Know is their detailed examination of the resultant groundbreaking but common-sense methodology they have dubbed "knowledge management," along with their analysis of several companies such as Amoco, Arthur Andersen, Buckman Laboratories, and Xerox that are successfully employing it today. By studying the execution and evolution of this practice in over 70 companies involved with their non-profit management organization, the two have observed how top practitioners are turning internal information that's already selectively available into dynamic improvements that are apparent throughout the companies. They describe how to implement knowledge management in your own firm and describe the "enabling context" (including infrastructure, culture, technology, and measurement) that help or hinder the process. --Howard Rothman

From Library Journal

The authors, heads of the American Productivity and Quality Center, focus on the notion of internal best practices, discussing the barriers to internal knowledge transfer and offering detailed recommendations for overcoming these barriers. Of particular value is their Knowledge Management Assessment Tool (KMAT), a device to help organizations assess their strengths and weaknesses in managing internal knowledge. A good starting point for those new to KM.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (November 10, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684844745
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684844749
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #809,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. Carla O'Dell is president of APQC and is considered one of the world's leading experts in KM. O'Dell has a unique perspective on what works and what doesn't, what's hype, and what's solid. Staying on the leading edge of KM is easy for O'Dell because APQC's members include the best KM professionals and organizations in the world. APQC has conducted 25 consortium studies in KM, with more than 500 participating organizations, and produced the largest body of actionable best practices available in designing, implementing, and measuring KM.

O'Dell led the creation of APQC's Open Standards Benchmarking research, which standardized the processes and measures that more than 9,000 global organizations use to benchmark and improve performance. And with her team at APQC and support of the Intelligent Utility Network, an international consortium of utilities and systems firms, O'Dell helped develop the Smart Grid Maturity Model, now stewarded by the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

She wrote with APQC Chairman C. Jackson Grayson "If Only We Knew What We Know: The Transfer of Internal Knowledge and Best Practice" (The Free Press, 1998), a bestseller that put KM on the map as a practical management discipline. She is also co-author with Grayson of "American Business: A Two Minute Warning" (The Free Press, 1988) and wrote "The Executive's Role in Knowledge Management" (APQC, 2004). She writes frequently for leading journals and magazines and is consistently among the highest-rated speakers at conferences.

O'Dell began her professional career with the Ford Foundation and the American Center for Quality of Work Life. She worked with companies that were just beginning to experiment with new forms of work and new ways to manage people. Joining APQC, O'Dell served as chairperson of the Rewards Conference of the White House Conference on Productivity and helped design the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award emanating from that conference.

O'Dell has a bachelor's degree from Stanford University, a master's degree from the University of Oregon, and a doctorate in organizational psychology from the University of Houston.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the exercises I conduct for consulting clients is quite simple but extraordinarily valuable. Here's how it works. I ask to meet with 5-10 key executives, with or without the CEO included. Each of those present, in rotation around the table, says to each of the others (one at a time): "Here is what you and your people could do to make my life much easier." The exercise continues until each executive has spoken directly to every other person. All this takes about 60-90 minutes. Invariably the response is, "I had no idea. No problem. We'll be glad to do it. Why didn't you mention this before?" Everyone is involved, either asking for specific assistance from everyone else, or, learning how she or he could provide it.
I mention this basic exercise to suggest what probably motivated O'Dell and Grayson to write this book. They focus on what they call "beds of knowledge" which are "hidden resources of intelligence that exist in almost every organization, relatively untapped and unmined." They suggest all manner of effective strategies to "tap into "this hidden asset, capturing it, organizing it, transferring it, and using it to create customer value, operational excellence, and product innovation -- all the while increasing profits and effectiveness."
Almost all organizations claim that their "most valuable assets walk out the door at the end of each business day." That is correct. Almost all intellectual "capital" is stored between two ears and much (too much) of it is, for whatever reasons, inaccessible to others except in "small change.
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Format: Hardcover
"Where should our business unit start in our goal to use knowledge to create greater value?" I am often asked this question as a principal Consultant to the Corporate University of a Fortune 100 Company . The answer now is easy - and tangible - I hand them a copy of this book. O'Dell and Grayson have created a knowledge transfer book that is well researched, easy to read, practical and insightful. From the very first chapter where they report the key insight - that knowledge is both tacit and explicit - the book is a gold mine of information. Their clear explanations of what is and is not working in successful "knowledge transfer" companies makes the book immediately useful. Plain language descriptions of the six barriers that hinder transfer of know-how will strike a chord with all levels in the organisation. Showing people paragraphs like "We're different" and "Sorry - I'm too busy" generates an instant interest. The book presents lessons learned in the important aspects of people (culture), processes, technology and infrastructure. Pearls of wisdom like why a company should "understand first, measure second" are spread throughout the book. The constant references to other sources of information and to practices at well known companies make the book itself a best practice in explicit knowledge sharing. And O'Dell and Grayson have include one section that many of the best sellers do not - "Where to start Monday morning". I would like to have seen more on "tacit" knowledge sharing. Perhaps the book will inspire someone to build on a great foundation and publish something practical on that.
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Format: Hardcover
"This is not the first book about managing of transferring knowledge and it is certainly not the last book about knowledge management (KM). There are many excellent books about knowledge management..., but we think our book is unique. Here's why: First,...It's a book about how to improve the performance of your organization...Second, this book is not based on theories or speculation. It is anchored in successes, mistakes, and real-life case studies. It is not a spiritual guide or a technology manual. The experiences, thoughts, insights, and conclusions herein are based on surveys, site visits, and design work with over seventy organizations of all shapes ans sizes...This book is primarily about internal transfer of best practices in organizations. That is, the transfer of best practices from one part of an organization to another part-or parts-in order to increase profitability or effectiveness...Finally, it is also a book about the transfer of knowledge, specifically, the effective management of knowledge inside an organization...This book will focus largely on 'internal benchmarking'-looking inside your own organization-and transferring best practices" (from the Preface).
In this context, Carla O'Dell and C.Jackson Grayson,Jr., in Chapter 4, write that "the internal transfer of knowledge is about finding out what you know, and using it to improve performance. It is about leveraging the value of knowledge you've already got. Whereas different companies adopt different approaches to finding and sharing internal know-how, they all seem to pursue one single strategy with great vigor: the transfer of internal best pactices", and then lay out a model that will guide the rest of the book. It has three major components:
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