Proprietary Information


I spent yesterday in a meeting with one of Canada’s leading oil companies (I was the keynote speaker). Like most companies on the planet, the hot topic of conversation is “How do we deal with the retirement of the boomers, and the resulting exodus of the massive amount of experience/ talent they’ll be taking with them?” 

It’s a good question, and an incredibly valid one. Corporate culture has relied heavily on the passing on of experience, of process; of “this is how it’s done around here” guidelines. What I found really interesting; especially thinking more about it again this morning, is that despite the convergence of two accepted truths we are still faced with this massive problem.

We’ve known for a long time the boomers are retiring. We’ve known we don’t have the numbers to replace them. We recognized quite some time ago that our age is primarily one based on information and its availability.

With these two things combined, why haven’t we made moves to create workplaces whereby the actual information, the guts of what we know and use to make decisions, is centralized? Where any relatively smart and motivated person can go in; pull the information required (collected over years of actual experience and logged in an easily accessible way); make a decision and move on?

If the actual information; the data, isn’t locked away in someone’s head and is freely available to all who need it; couldn’t we then focus on bringing to the table the traits that an individual is hired for? Their leadership qualities; their enthusiasm; their vision; how they see the world and do what it takes to make things happen. Instead we bring them in, put them on the fast track in cramming their head full of the data; the experience their predecessor is (hopefully) passing on before their own departure…

In days now gone, we had time to pass on information person to person. Now we don’t; the world is moving too rapidly. Passing that information to a central point; with easy access to those that need it, seems to make the most sense to me, but hey; maybe I’m missing something…
Would love to hear your thoughts.

ps: If this sounds like a criticism; it’s not meant to be. The company, the people I met yesterday are doing an outstanding job of handling the situation. I’m a firm believer though of getting into the habit of, every now and then, stepping back and asking ourselves: How am I seeing this? Am I focused on the summit, or the steps?