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HRINZ Conference 2004 Shifting the Thinking
HRINZ Conference 2004 Shifting the Thinking
next practice in people management

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keynote speakers

Eric Lesser

Grey Matter Matters: preserving critical knowledge

Eric Lesser, Associate Partner,
Institute for Business Value, IBM

Given changes in workforce demographics, labour mobility patterns, and the recent wave of consolidations and staff reductions, many firms are faced with the challenge of retaining knowledge that is departing their organisations. This issue strikes at the heart of firms across a wide variety of sectors. For example, in the government, petroleum and mining industries, the average age of key employees continues to rise, forcing organisations to consider ways of retaining critical experiences and insights. Similarly, in high turnover industries, such as retail and technology, accumulated knowledge rarely stays around long enough to get inculcated and shared across geographic and functional borders. In either case, organisations are faced with a significant loss in experiential knowledge that can have damaging impact on employee productivity. Yet, many companies and government agencies have made little progress in stemming the damage caused by the erosion of their knowledge base.

This presentation, which is based upon research conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value, will address the following issues:

  • Why has knowledge retention become such an important issue for today’s organisations?
  • What have leading organisations done to begin to address this issue?
  • What types of technologies are being leveraged to deal with this phenomenon?
  • How should managers begin to proactively manage challenges around knowledge retention?
  • What types of measures should be put into place to evaluate a knowledge retention

Eric Lesser is an Associate Partner with IBM’s Institute for Business Value, where he conducts research and develops thought leadership in the areas of knowledge, learning, and human capital management. Previously, Eric Lesser led the Knowledge and Organisational Performance Forum, an IBM-sponsored consortium focused on knowledge and human capital issues. In this role, Eric Lesser managed multi-client studies on knowledge strategy, communities of practice, knowledge retention and customer knowledge issues. As a consultant, he has worked with clients in the financial services, legal, technology and government sectors on developing knowledge strategies, enabling communities, and implementing knowledge management solutions.

Mr Lesser has spoken frequently on the topic of knowledge in organisations and has most
recently edited (with Laurence Prusak) Creating Value with Knowledge: Insights from the IBM Institute for Business Value, published by Oxford University Press. He has also edited Knowledge and Social Capital and co-edited Knowledge and Communities, both published by Butterworth-Heinemann in 2000. Eric Lesser has also written numerous articles, including:

  • “Nurturing Interpersonal Trust in Knowledge-Sharing Networks” in The Academy of Management Executive (November, 2003)
  • “ What Are Your Customers Saying?" in Marketing Management (November/December 2002.)
  • “ Preserving Knowledge in an Uncertain World” in the Sloan Management Review (Fall, 2001)
  • “ Communities of Practice and Organizational Performance” in the IBM Systems Journal (Winter, 2001)
  • “ Using Communities of Practice to Manage Intellectual Capital” in the Ivey Business Journal (March/ April 2001)
  • “ Managing Customer Knowledge” in the Journal of Business Strategy (Nov/Dec, 2000)
  • “ Using Organizational Knowledge to Redesign Work” in Knowledge Management Review (May/June, 1998).

Mr Lesser has been quoted in a number of publications including the Financial Times, Australian Financial Review, Knowledge Management, Government Executive, Training, Knowledge Management Review and Beyond Computing. Eric Lesser has also written extensively on the subjects of organisation change and employee communications.

Prior to joining IBM, Eric Lesser was a consultant with Mercer Consulting Group, where he worked for Mercer Management Consulting and William M. Mercer’s Health Care Provider Consulting practice. While at Mercer, he served as a project manager and lead consultant on a number of assignments, including reengineering, new product development, organisation strategy and design, and change management efforts. Prior to joining Mercer,
Eric Lesser worked as a consultant for Andersen Consulting in its Change Management practice.

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