CHAPTER 1 Working Smarter; Not Harder i 39
M istakes happen. Best Buy Co., the M inneapolis-
based retailer of consum er electronics, personal
com puters, and hom e appliances, does speaker
installation and sim ilar tasks. For Best Buy, pre -
venting m istakes is a focus for know ledge m an-
agem ent. KM is ab out creating a corpo rate cul-
ture that learns from experience, so if mistakes do
happen, they will never be repeated.
To see how quickly the bottom-line benefits of
knowledge sharing prove themselves at Best Buy,
lets look at the results of one of its original three
KM pilots, in the auto service and installation bays.
We have over 400 stores, two car bays per store,
1,400 service technicians, and 400 different audio
products, says Allen Meyer, KM program direc-
tor. “How many different ways can you put a radio
in a car? One: the right way. The em phasis on
knowledge m anagement and knowledge sharing is
to be able to m odel best practices behavior to
avoid cost and im prove customer satisfaction.”
If, for example, a technician was to set off the
Porsche B ox ste rs airbag, B est Buy would lose
revenue and customer confidence. You m ight say
that the retailer that does this the fewest num ber
of times wins. As a m atter of fact, no one at Best
Buy has made this particular mistake even once.
O ne of our technicians found the sim ilarity of
wires for the airb ag and the sp eakers and dis-
seminated that information,” M eyer says. “The haz-
ard was pro m oted to a top tip and sent to every
mobile installer across o ur en terprise that day.
O f course, that glitch is only one of many possible
mistakes. O th er installations, for exam ple, require
drilling close to a cars gas tank.
Today, before an installer ever touches a car,
he or she goes to the com puter to print out any
tips for the specific vehicle and product. If anyone
learns som ething new, a tip is input to be validated
by the gatekeeper and dissem inated through the
system. In these ways, knowledge sharing becom es
a process em bedded in standard operating proce-
dures. W ith a new model where this is always
going to be a problem , it may be inevitable that [a
mistake] happens once, Meyer admits. “The real
tragedy is if it happens even a second time because
the inform ation d idn t get out. If we avoid that
scenario, how much money can we save?
SOURCE: Excerpted from Barth, Steve. “Learning from Mistakes,” Knowledge Management, April 2001, pp. 41-47.
sales, and services on a daily basis; improving the quality of decision m aking at the
front lines; bringing your business p artners up to speed; im proving em ployee m orale to
ensure low turnover and effective decision making; and im proving customer-employee
relations through b etter trust in knowledge w orkers expertise.
i How It Came About
Traditionally, there has been a predefined recipe for success, where companies have
been run by com pany m ottos and age-old business practices that were accepted as
methods for success. Doing the same stuff harder and harder has dem onstrated to many
leading firms that they are losing touch with the quickly changing business environment
and losing m arket share. The successes of yesterday no longer translate into successes
of tomorrow . In today s business world, the h eartbeat of the firm depends on the con-
stant revam ping of systems to rem ain com petitive. There is trem endous emphasis on
quick response instead of planning. Business can no longer rely on preset rules with

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