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Using storytelling to elicit tacit knowledge from SMEs

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PurposeThis paper seeks to report on research investigating storytelling as a means of eliciting tacit knowledge from retiring subject matter experts (SMEs) within a large South African organisation. Design/methodology/approachIn total, 64 stories were collected over a 12-month period covering a varied range of technical disciplines and were analysed using grounded theory principles combined with expert reviews. FindingsDespite the diverse nature of the stories they were able to be coded and categorised into 21 knowledge management constructs which were further refined by expert review down to 14 final constructs. Research limitations/implicationsThe main limitation of this study is the generalisability of the findings, which may be limited by the fact the study was conducted in one large South African organisation. Practical implicationsA common language is a key prerequisite for sharing knowledge. Every discipline within an organisation has its own language by which it communicates with insiders; this is particularly true of the ICT field. Through the common language of KM, tacit knowledge from SMEs can be elicited and classified for future access by people of all levels within the organisation. Originality/valueTo the authors' knowledge this is the first attempt at classifying organisational stories using a knowledge management (KM) frame. The work presented in this paper is a step towards a KM taxonomy of organisational stories.
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Keywords: Elicitation; Expert review; Grounded theory; Knowledge management; South Africa; Stories; Storytelling; Subject matter expert; Tacit knowledge; Taxonomy

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 19 October 2012

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