Managing Lessons Learned and Tacit Knowledge in New Product Development
Every new product development (NPD) team learns a unique set of lessons in solving the many problems that arise in a typical project, and it is important to ensure that these lessons are shared. Since much of the learning is tacit in nature, it is difficult to articulate, to capture, and to disseminate. Therefore, managers face a challenge in trying to stimulate project-to-project learning. Many companies hold post-project reviews (PPRs)—meetings at the end of projects to determine the lessons learned and document them for the future. However, discussing a project, noting down the lessons learned, and entering them into a database is not sufficient. Our research at five leading German companies shows that written reports fail to convey much of the key learning from NPD teams and so managers need to focus on stimulating individual learning and running PPRs in specific ways to generate and transfer tacit knowledge. Managers also need to integrate PPRs with other mechanisms, such as mentoring schemes and knowledge brokering, to stimulate the flow of lessons learned and tacit knowledge.
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