The business world is both transient and stable. People and priorities change, but as long as the organization is in existence it has processes that continue on. When the information gets disseminated is becomes institutional knowledge. We often connect this with an individual (When Maria leaves we are in trouble because she has so much institutional knowledge.), but keeping this information available improves the understanding of processes throughout the enterprise.
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But, how we speak about things changes over time. For instance, organizational commitment became employee satisfaction, which became employee engagement. There are subtle differences between them, but what we have always been talking about is, “How much do people want to be here and contribute?” Yet, if we did not have records about how we understood these concepts we would have some difficulty understanding how and why we conduct (or don’t conduct) employee surveys.
The challenge is how to keep track of the amount of information that organizations generate and keep it in an update language that makes sense as the business changes. For instance, in my practice it is normally takes quite a bit of communication and presentations to keep validated testing programs going when there is a change in HR leadership.
Perhaps a more interesting example is outlined in this article, which describes how a group of volunteers are taking handwritten letters to reconstruct the English language during Shakespeare’s time. You may say that 400 years is much longer than any business organization has been around, but think about the rapid changes in computer languages and how important understanding the “old” ones are in maintaining or updating systems. The archaic can be useful
What potentially gets lost over time and change in language are the research and reasons for doing things. We lose the ability to answer the most basic of business questions, “Why are we doing this? Why are we doing it this way?” Being able to communicate the answers those questions allows for adapting processes when the environment changes and prevents reinventing the wheel.