Daniel Stenholm

Do we miss the opportunity to reuse past knowledge and does it really matter

In his doctoral thesis,  Daniel Stenholm PhD student at the division of Production Development discusses different approaches to reuse of engineering knowledge.

Reuse of Engineering Knowledge

Perspectives on Experience-Based Codified Knowledge in Incremental Product Development

Do we miss the opportunity to reuse past knowledge and does it really matter?

Do any of the following situations sound familiar? 
  1. You have been hearing about the baby boomer retirement for years and now it is on your doorstep or already going on. Senior managers and experts are retiring and it is challenging to fill their places. A lot of projects will be delayed or cancelled for lack of experienced employees. Some of what they know may perhaps be obsolete. But how much? And what parts? What knowledge can and should be passed along and reused by less experienced colleagues? 
  2. You have been hiring talented young engineers over the past few years, but they are… different. These Gen-Y individuals, or Millennials, are impatient to move up the organizational ladder and do not expect to spend twenty years in the same organization. They have some great new ideas, such as using social media to interact with colleagues. But how do you integrate them efficiently into the organizational culture while making sure that they apply existing organizational knowledge? 
  3. Your product development teams are scattered around the globe. It is great that someone in East Asia or the U.S. is working while your team members in Europe are asleep – and your electronic communication systems allow you to get really quick responses to a given specific problem. But how do you advance and promote individuals and teams from competence to expertise given that experts are so dispersed?

All these scenarios have a common challenge: How can business-critical, experience-based knowledge of experts become valuable for an organization through efficient reuse of this knowledge over time? 

This thesis primarily focuses on dynamically capturing and reusing the knowledge that is the most critical for an organization and presents a practical approach to improve domain-specific knowledge flow over time. 
Moreover, the focus is about a particular subset of knowledge that has been built up from corporate-specific and mostly undocumented experience normally contained inside the heads of senior workers.  

Not only capturing what you might call Know-what but also what the most valuable practitioners have learned about Know-how, along with the reason behind – Know-why. This expertise includes such skills as the ability to diagnose and anticipate problems and making swift and wise decisions and actions. Such knowledge has a major benefit to an organization and will become invaluable into the future, hence the need to transfer it to the next generation of engineers.


Text: Daniel Stenholm/Kate Larsson​​

Published: Tue 06 Nov 2018. Modified: Wed 07 Nov 2018