Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Knowledge Inside our Heads

This morning I was engaging in an online discussion for one of my courses on the topic of technology in Student Affairs and Services.  One of my classmates, a Residence Life Coordinator, mentionned that she sometimes has to cover the front desk shift if someone doesn't come in, and she finds it frustrating that she has to go through weeks (or months) worth of logbooks in order to look up any key information.  This brought me to post the following on twitter: 'reflection: if someone had to do your job for a day/wk/mth, are you organized enough that they could do so successfully?'
I went for a run and while doing so, a blog post began formulating in my mind, and I came to realize that in many cases, it may not be our level of organization that is the problem, but how good we are at sharing (read: documenting) the knowledge inside our heads.  As far as organization goes, I think it's safe to say that we are doing fairly well on that end, we keep track of budgets, meeting notes, learning outcomes, program plans, etc.  I recall a Student Life Coordinator in my not-so-distant past being extremely proud of cutting the number of Orientation Week planning binders from 20-something down to 15 or so in one year).  We are also great at sharing best practices within our organizations and with each other, but how good are we at sharing the knowledge inside our heads?
Going back to my earlier tweet, I think in many cases, our countless notes/binders/logs would allow someone to successfully take over our jobs for a few days/weeks in the event we were not able to, at least as far as the mechanics of it goes.  Events would run smoothly, programs would be successful, meetings would be attended, etc.  But if we had to be absent for an extended period of time due to unforeseen circumstances, would that person be able to successfully do our jobs or would they spend the time going through the motions, but missing pieces here and there?  Would they understand the dynamics between certain departments/individuals?  How would they find out that you have a go-to contact for facilities/room bookings/catering?  I know none of us want to think of ourselves as replaceable, or make ourselves seem that way, but are we guilty of being 'selfish' with our knowledge?  With all the technological possibilities out there, how can we ensure that we are being transparent enough with ourselves to ensure the success of our organization, even if we can't be directly responsible for that success?