After Actions Reviews

The only irreplaceable capital an organization possesses is the knowledge and ability of its people. The productivity of that capital depends on how effectively people share their competence with those who can use it.

—Andrew Carnegie

Between 1644 and 1737, in the small northern Italian town of Cremona, lived Antonio Stradivari, who made over 1,000 violins, violas, and cellos; a harp; and a couple of lutes that bear his famous name. These instruments are the most sought-after and expensive in the world, regularly selling in the millions of dollars.

Today, even with all the advances in modern technology—with our precision equipment, lasers, computer-aided design, and analytical machinery—and notwithstanding gallant attempts by researchers for over a century, we still cannot replicate the musical quality of an instrument handcrafted over 300 years ago. The knowledge—known as “the Stradivarius secret”—has been lost.

This process of creating and losing knowledge is nothing new, with the lost Library of Alexandria by A.D. 300 perhaps being the greatest example in history of lost intellectual and cultural capital. With the so-called Graybe Boom, the average age of the workforce in the rich world is increasing at the same time many of the Boomers are anticipating retirement, making them the first wave of knowledge workers to do so.

Companies lose knowledge from people leaving, forgetting, retiring, and so on. Knowledge also becomes obsolete and must be ...

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