This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

December 26, 2012

"Knowledge Fracking" Moves Organizations Forward

Many of us know that the process of "fracking" involves injecting high-pressure streams of water and chemicals into the ground to extract natural gas. Thus Ben Brooks, vice president and practice leader for human capital performance at Marsh, has created the term "knowledge fracking". [Marsh (formerly Marsh McLennan) is one of the largest insurance brokers and risk advisers in the world.]

"Knowledge fracking" refers to the process of using the company's proprietary social network to allow fragments of important information to rise to the surface where they can be shared. The valuable intellectual capital that was typically hidden on employees' hard drives and in their emails is then available to everyone.

Marsh's proprietary social network is called "Marsh University", or MU. Founded in 2010, MU offers tools for blogging, online discussions, video presentations, search and more. It facilitates Marsh's 26,000 employees marshaling "the experience and brainpower of their colleagues [n more than 350 employee-discussion groups] to get work done".

After receiving answers to their queries on MU, employees are often able to help their clients obtain affordable insurance coverage in markets they wouldn't have otherwise considered. The company shares its managers' valuable intellectual capital with Millennials through posting videos and shared tips and videos.

Marketing and creative departments have used MU to compare and collaborate on ideas for improving corporate logos. Retiring employees have used the tools on MU to create engaging presentations for knowledge-sharing with their colleagues, rather than taking it with them once they left.

Marsh is not the only company to be using this type of learning and collaborative system. Similar systems are in use at Deloitte, the international accounting and consulting firm, ETS-Lindgren, a Texas-based electrical-systems manufacturer, and Aragon Consulting, California-based firm.

Supported by existing technology, we expect to see enlightened HR professionals everywhere joining this quiet revolution to embrace the power of social networking to mine the collective intellectual capital within organizations. Different organizations accomplish this task in different ways. Boardroom, Inc., the Stanford, Connecticut-based publisher, uses its I-Power program. This knowledge-sharing for innovation is vital for the competitive success of any company moving into the future.

Special thanks to HREOnline for raising our consciousness to this important issue. For their full article, visit

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