The hidden power of hidden knowledge

I know a lot about markers from spending more than fifteen years as a trainer. That statement may not be too interesting to you until you realize the true value of inane knowledge that only comes from experience. Find a way to identify this knowledge in your own organization and you can save time and money while improving productivity.

Weird marker fact
Many a whiteboard has been ruined by someone accidentally writing on it with a permanent marker. The good news is you can generally fix this in a few minutes.  Just take a whiteboard marker and trace over the permanent marker so it is fully covered. Then, spray whiteboard cleaner on a cloth and wipe down the surface. Voila! The permanent marker is gone. 

Bored by marker facts? Maybe. But look closer and you'll see that over the years I've saved countless whiteboards from destruction and expensive replacement.

Put hidden knowledge to work
There's real value to finding and capturing hidden knowledge in organizations, but it requires you to go against the grain of top-down management. Here are three simple strategies to making the most of the weird knowledge your experienced employees have stuck in their brains.

#1 Capture It
I learned how to save a whiteboard from one of my experienced trainers when I was a young training supervisor. We captured this great technique for all future trainers by incorporating it into our train-the-trainer curriculum. This gave us a whole team of people who could save an expensive whiteboard from doom.

Find ways to document and capture the wisdom of your experienced employees so you can share it with others.

#2 Proceduralize It
I was once tasked with helping sales reps at a catalog company improve their ability to pitch the company's credit card. Our company-wide acceptance rate was 5%, but one employee consistently got more than 40% of her customers to sign up for the new card. What was her secret? She had some natural sales ability but she also congratulated her customers on being pre-approved when she presented the offer. It was a strange approach that turned out to be highly effective. Our average acceptance rate jumped to 20% when we made this technique part of the standard procedure for all our reps.

Experienced employees often find more efficient ways to get things done. Why not make their process the procedure for everyone?

#3 Use them as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)
I once worked for a company that sold collectibles and novelties from the former Soviet Union. It served a niche to be sure, but it also made for an eclectic range of product issues and questions. Fortunately, I had several experienced employees who were all interested in different product lines. I put each one in charge of education for the products they liked most and suddenly found them challenging each other with fun quizzes, training new employees on our products, and developing relationships with collectors they could call and sell to when new shipments came in.

Your experienced employees have a lot to share. Give them responsibilities that allow them to use their knowledge and you might be surprised at how much they contribute!