Transferring knowledge seems like it ought to be a simple task. A project or expert writes up what they have learned, then those that need that knowledge read the report – knowledge transferred, end of story. 

There are a number of design principles that make knowledge transfer effective, two of them are:

  1. designing for mutual learning, so both the assisters and the receivers benefit from the experience  
  2. giving the assisters enough understanding of the receiver’s situation so they can adapt their knowledge to a new context. 

Read about more of design principles in 4 Great Ways to Conduct Peer Assists.

At Common Knowledge Associates we build strategies and methods for transferring complex, unique, and hard-earned experience including:

  • Transferring knowledge between projects 

  • Retaining the knowledge of retiring experts 

  • Making sure distributed team members transfer knowledge among themselves in order to co-create new products

  • Learning from critical events like downsizing or re-orgs and putting those lessons to use the next time the organization faces those same problems

  • Finding ways for peers to learn from peers - not just the answers to problems but the deep tacit knowledge. 

  • Preserving the knowledge lost during job transitions


 “I have worked with Nancy over the last eight years as we developed our integrated risk and knowledge management approach for human exploration and operations at NASA. She has been both a friend and colleague who we could go to for advice in order to develop and maintain a set of practices and products that aid in capturing and transferring knowledge. Nancy has been instrumental in our success and we plan to keep her involved in our future endeavors.” 

- David Lengyel, NASA Risk and Knowledge Manager

But unfortunately, too many attempts like this don’t work. Knowledge ends up in repositories that few people visit and when they do log in, the reports they find are often not helpful. Experts and groups that have the knowledge are reluctant to spend their time writing it up, perhaps because they have learned that it’s not going to be used.   Regrettably knowledge repositories have earned a reputation for being a waste of time in many organizations.


For Common Knowledge Associates the heart of knowledge transfer is conversation. We design transfer meetings combined with skillful facilitation, that result in the receivers of knowledge prepared to put their new learning into practice. And the bonus is that relationships are built between the receivers and the originators so they can continue to learn together, long after the transfer meeting ends. See example in Tips and Guidelines.


Based on the Dixon Knowledge Transfer Framework, Common Knowledge Associates offers organizations two kind of assistance in transferring critical knowledge from one group to another:

Making Knowledge Transfer Work
  • We identify the most effective transfer process to fit their specific need based on two criteria

                 a. The transfer problem the organization is trying to solve (e.g transfer the knowledge of a retiring expert to his/her successor;                        transfer the knowledge that has been learned in one project to other projects)

                 b. The type of knowledge the organization needs to transfer (e.g. explicit, implicit or tacit?

  • We facilitate transfer meetings to make sure actionable knowledge is created. 

In many, if not most, cases, knowledge does not automatically flow without some kind of facilitation or coaching. Especially for the first few exchanges it is helpful to have a transfer specialist model effective transfer processes. 

Tips and Practical Guidelines:


Whether you are looking to increase the uptake of your organization’s knowledge or have a specific group that needs to transfer its knowledge to others, we can set up a quick call to brainstorm ways I may be able to help your organization achieve more, in less time.