An outlet for expertise

The hardest part of knowledge management is not pulling together information stored in desk drawers or hard drives but getting to the information that people carry in their heads. And with a large chunk of the federal workforce set to retire over the next decade, agencies are hard at work finding ways to get those experts to leave behind their work-related knowledge.

It's not that people don't want to share, said Randy Adkins, project manager for Air Force Knowledge Now. Instead, it's an issue of access. "People don't have a good outlet," he said. Adkins and his team think they have at least one avenue for effective sharing. The Wisdom Exchange, a node on the Knowledge Now site, enables the Air Force's most experienced personnel to voluntarily sign up as resources for various user communities. If, for example, an employee has a question about cost estimating, they would go into the appropriate community site, click on a button called Find Advice and type in a question. The question is then sent to every person who has been identified as an expert on cost estimating. Typically, Adkins said, at least one and sometimes two or three people — often from geographically diverse locations — will respond. "If you posted that question on a discussion board, you could never be sure that the right people were seeing it," Adkins said. "This way, the right people are automatically notified, and we capture that conversation [so] it can be searched and browsed by other people as well."

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