Sunday, October 15, 2017

Experience Capitalization, Another Approach to Lessons Learned

The vocabulary of knowledge management and organizational learning is a never ending source of learning, especially when practicing across industries.  While looking at United Nations activities around Knowledge Management, I came across the term "experience capitalization."  Intuitively, I knew what it was referring to but I couldn't remember ever encountering the term before.  My first instinct was to try to figure out how that might be similar to or different from variations of lessons learned activities.

Here's what I found:

Experience capitalization includes the identification of lessons learned and good practices, but it goes beyond identification to include a significant effort to create materials for dissemination of the lessons and good practices.  This reflects the international development context within which the importance of disseminating good practices and lessons learned through appropriate communication channels is paramount and perhaps more complex and challenging than dissemination in a corporate environment. The use of the term appears to be more prevalent in agricultural development (FAO, IFAD, etc...), which makes sense because the UN consulting request for proposals where I first encountered the term was related to an agriculture program.

For additional information, see the following:
In parallel, as I was preparing for some facilitation of lessons learned conversations in French, I came across the term "retour d'experience," which literally means "return on experience" but if I say "return on experience" in English it brings up a possible association with "return on investment."  Perhaps each experience can be perceived as an investment (in time) and the return on that investment in time can be in part measured by the lessons learned in the process, as long as the lessons are indeed properly identified, captured and shared.  

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