Any organization that hasn’t yet started to systematically collect its “sacred bundle” of stories is going to lose a priceless treasure of knowledge when the last of the Baby Boom generation retires in the next 20 years or so. Born between 1946 and 1964, Boomers started exiting the workplace in the late ’90s and those who continue working until age 70 will be gone by 2034.
As Daniel Burrus wrote in his blog Monday, the retirement of Boomers is a Burrus Hard Trend™ — one that’s based on “measurable, tangible, and fully predictable facts, events, or objects.” His proprietary Hard Trend system is used by many top companies, such as Deloitte, Lockheed Martin and IBM, to forecast future needs and develop strategic plans. Soft Trends, he says, are projections that “might happen: a future maybe. Soft Trends can be changed, which means they provide a powerful vehicle to influence the future and can be capitalized on.”
So the fact that Boomers are retiring is a Hard Trend, the best-selling author, innovation expert and global futurist says. A reasonable projection based on that fact “would be which companies will implement a system to collect knowledge from them” and “implement a knowledge-sharing network” before they go. Systematically collecting and cataloguing stories is an effective way to capture and manage knowledge, as some consulting firms have learned and many corporations are catching on.
The Environmental Protection Agency is first organization I’m aware of that began a story collection when it realized it was about to lose a vast amount of valuable knowledge due to retirements. The people who began leaving 30 years following the founding of the agency carried with them not only nuggets of the developing culture, but the details of the early years. Those details include how regulations were established, why they were written as they were, and the intitial dreams as well as the stated long-term goals. To capture that knowledge, the EPA began shooting a series of video interviews with legacy employees so that following generations could learn from them “first-hand,” in a sense, by “sitting in” on the interviews.
What is your organization doing to preserve the knowledge stored in the minds of the “elders”? Their experiences encapsulate invaluable information about the history of the company; the major challenges and how they were overcome; the main characters; and tales about everyday experiences that enliven the culture through the years.
If you haven’t yet begun to capture the stories, get started before it’s too late! If you need help, a Corporate Storytelling® workshop will give the foundation for identifying, developing and telling your core stories. Follow-on writing and coaching services will help you establish a solid base collection and keep the program on track.
Capture your stories before all that valuable knowledge walks out the door! And tell them often. Stories live only when they’re told.