DEFINITION: A knowledge silo is a specific knowledge domain or area of expertise within a given job role or function. Common examples include skills, tools, processes, systems and platforms, standards, products, customers, and history relevant to performing a job. Knowledge silos are an important organizing concept within the field knowledge transfer.
“KNOWING” SILOS VS. “DOING” SILOS
People tend to think about knowledge in two different ways. The first is what I call academic or “knowing” silos (areas of expertise), such as, “I know about material sciences, nutrition, or agile development.” Then, there are “doing” silos, such as “I can do seismic calculations, develop chemical formulas for new products, and manage plant systems maintenance.” Even though we can all agree that you have to “know” before you can “do,” effective knowledge transfer starts with a focusing on the “doing” silos. In other words, teach a qualified learner/apprentice how to do the work and the knowing will come along for the ride – and much faster.
A common mistake I’ve seen in my decades of knowledge transfer consulting is experts too often feeling the need to teach their apprentices lots of prerequisite background—“knowing” silos—rather than focusing on the skills required to do a job—“doing” silos. Continue reading