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Smile, Retiring Baby Boomers: You’re on Knowledge Capture Camera!


“Smile, you’re on Candid Camera.”

It’s a phrase we all know – and I’ll bet more than one of us heard it over the holidays when someone snapped a pic or snagged a video of a special moment.

Modern-day iterations of the popular television show include “The Jamie Kennedy Experiment”, Ashton Kutcher’s “Punk’d” and John Quinone’s “What Would You Do?”. Of course, we can’t forget the perennial favorite, “America’s Funniest Videos,” where viewers are asked to send in the hilarious things that happen in their own homes.

What if we used a similar approach for generational knowledge transfer in our organizations – asking the Baby Boomers to go on camera before they walk out the door?

“Now wait a minute,” you’re saying. “You want me to get video of people caught in humorous situations on the job? My leadership will never go for it.”

Okay. Not exactly – but go with me for a second.

The reason this question is coming to mind is because it was asked a few times by participants in a GovLoop webinar I moderated two weeks ago titled, “Generation Switch: How to Transfer Boomer Brilliance to Tech-Savvy New Hires.”

Based on the fact that this kind of show has been a hit for more than 60 years (Candid Camera first aired in 1948), there’s something powerful in the simple approach of getting someone to go on camera and asking them a few questions about their area of expertise. Maybe the approach I’m advocating for is more akin to a Barbara Walters interview than a candid camera surprise — but I did get your attention, didn’t I? Consider the case study below.

Case Study in Knowledge Capture: PathtoPMF.com Videos

We completed this kind of project earlier this year when we produced the videos for our PathtoPMF.com website. In case you’d like to experiment with a similar approach in your organization, here’s the simple 5-step plan we followed:

1. Identify thought leaders and experts on a particular topic. In order to get a well-rounded view of the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program, we found a handful of each of these groups of stakeholders: current or former PMF alumni, agency PMF Coordinators and college / university career counselors. Who are the people that can speak articulately about key processes and projects in your organization?

2. Come up with consistent questions to ask each of them. We wanted to get insights around 4-5 of the same questions: Why should a person apply for the PMF Program? How do you ace the online application? How do you pass the in-person assessment phase? What are the best ways to approach the job fair? By keeping the questions consistent, we received several answers that we were able to splice together for a comprehensive, crowd-sourced perspective on a topic.

3. Send the interview questions to participants in advance. While most of the TV shows I cited above capture people in unexpected circumstances, we wanted our participants to be prepared for what we’d ask them. We sent the interview questions in advance so that they could give them some thought and be ready for the camera. NOTE: We did not ask them write up responses or come up with any kind of script. We wanted their responses to be as natural as possible.

4. Schedule the video interviews right in people’s offices. In order to make it easy and comfortable for participants, we conducted the interviews right where they performed their daily tasks. Most organizations don’t have a studio and that kind of environment would likely be intimidating for participants anyway. If you feel like you need a little more control over lighting and other elements, pick a place in your organization that serves as an appropriate or meaningful backdrop. NOTE: The more familiar, personal and diverse the backdrop, the more interesting it will be for the viewers.

5. Curate and coalesce the content into short videos. We knew that people’s attention spans were limited, so we found the best sound bites to include in 7 videos of no more than 6 minutes in length. Here’s an example:

Cost Considerations

I know what you’re thinking now: “Oh great. We need to buy a bunch of video equipment and content editing software. Plus, it’s going to take a lot of time.” Let me address each of these concerns below:

  • Video equipment: We used a Canon X10 camera to conduct the interviews (priced at $2,000). We also used a tripod since we wanted a stable image. I’m not a video camera expert, but I would imagine you could find something in a lower price range that would do the job for you.
  • Video editing software: For the actual editing, we purchased Final Cut X at $299. Again, I don’t know about the alternatives, but I have to imagine there’s some open source products that suffice for shoestring budgets.
  • Editing time: Each video required about 1 hour to shoot and 2-3 hours of editing time. What makes it a bit more lengthy is when you’re splicing together multiple interviews as we did. Depending on the amount of knowledge you need to capture, you can scale this number up or down. If you really want to keep it low budget, you could capture and cut up the individual segments and share them relatively raw with a simple bumper on the front and/or back. The key would be lumping them together under the same question(s) so that viewers can find the quick clips that pertain to their learning needs.

All in all, I’d say it’s a relatively small investment that has a long tail impact on learning and knowledge transfer in your agency.

Access Over Time

Of course, you’ll need to consider where you store all of this content so that it’s easily accessible to viewers. That’s where Blackboard had an interest in partnering with GovLoop to host this event as their Blackboard Learn product provides a solid solution for your consideration.

I’m bullish on the value of video to achieving knowledge transfer in an organization, especially if its incorporated into on-boarding or standard training programs in an organization. One only needs to look at the success of video in popular culture – whether it’s popular TV shows or the pervasive use of YouTube and Vimeo – to see that this just might work for knowledge transfer that spans the generations.

Are you using video for knowledge capture and transfer in your organization?

Do you think this kind of project would be viable / valuable where you work?

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7 Comments

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Lori Windle

YES! Our agency began doing this on our 30th year anniversary and have continued to do it. The questions have more to do with their familiarity of the enactment of our enabling legislation and how the agency and the relationships with states and tribes have changed over the years. BUT we do ask interviewees what advice they would give to new people coming on.

I am the only AV Production Specialist (video producer) at my agency so we already have the equipment and expertise available. It is finding the time to review and edit the dozens of interviews we have that is proving to be a challenge! Good luck to those attempting this in the future as it is very time consuming.

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Chris Ammon

Great post Andrew. When thinking about production time, I think it’s important to consider the purpose of the final product. Post production on a knowledge capture video can be much less time intensive than a marketing piece. That PMF piece was a more time-intensive 5-minutes, in terms of editing, because you were stitching together many short soundbites that told a linear story to marketed something. It was a persuasion video. If you had one speaker tell a 5 minute story about how to do something or why something is done a certain way (knowledge transfer type content), the editing could be dramatically reduced.

Another thing that helps reduce production time is when everyone involved accepts that we are all human and saying, “um” in the middle of a sentence or misspeaking and correcting it all in one sentence is OK. Knowledge transfer videos should feel like conversations, not presentations. That will keep your subject more relaxed, so they deliver more smoothly, and it will keep you from having to spin through 100 unfinished takes in the edit suite! Cheers.

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Andrew Krzmarzick

Thanks for those tips, Chris. That’s really helpful. I especially like the advice on reminding folks to relax and not worry about the “ums” and “ahs.” (I’ve needed to hear that myself when going on camera :-).

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John Janek

Neat idea – I’ve got a question regarding this methodology. So often it feels like videos become archival evidence; at best used only by those who want to thoroughly research a problem, and at worst just another batch of 0’s and 1’s clogging the Cloud. We already see and experience this today when dealing with pre-recorded seminars/webinars. So how can you integrate the video into the knowledge base? Are there automatic subtitling tools that provide a transcript for the search engines?

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Andrew Krzmarzick

John – My sense is that it needs to not only be part of the knowledge base, but also part of the on-boarding / training process – all tied to a person’s Individual Development Plan and part of a person’s review. I think that’s the only way a lot of this will get used. It’s got to be baked into performance growth plans, and reinforced by management.

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