Lucidea’s Lens: Knowledge Management Thought Leaders Part 35 – Dorothy Leonard

Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

February 16, 2023

Dorothy Leonard is the William J. Abernathy Professor of Business Administration, Emerita at Harvard Business School, and Chief Advisor at the Leonard-Barton Group. 

She specializes in knowledge transfer, innovation management, team creativity, and assessment of organizational knowledge assets. I met Dorothy when she delivered a keynote at the 2018 APQC KM Conference in Houston.

Dorothy’s principal interests are in the generation and management of knowledge:

  1. Transfer of knowledge/expertise across professional, cultural, and geographic boundaries
  2. Design, development, and commercialization of new technologies
  3. Development of strategic technological capabilities
  4. Management of creative teams

Her research interests fall into three broad, interacting categories:

  1. Group/team creativity and innovation
  2. The identification, capture and recreation of experience-based expertise
  3. The culture of a learning organization


  • Stanford University, Ph.D., 1979
  • University of Virginia, M.A., 1968
  • Principia College, B.A., 1963


  • Chief Advisor, Leonard-Barton Group, 2012 – Present
  • Professor, Harvard Business School, 1983 – Present
  • Assistant Professor, MIT Sloan School of Management, 1980 – 1983





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Develop Deep Knowledge in Your Organization — and Keep It

Organizations that are proactive about managing the flow of knowledge focus on several potentially essential ingredients to future success, such as:

  • Retaining experience-based know-how, including not only technical knowledge but also so-called “softer” skills, such as project management and maintaining critical relationships inside and outside the organization that have been built up over years. For example, many top sales people know clients personally; subject matter experts know others in their field. Such trusted relationships facilitate communications and speed decision making.
  • Helping mentors pass along their expertise more effectively and helping mentees learn more efficiently. Mentors can teach through practical problem sets and hands-on diagnoses instead of lectures and presentations. Newcomers can learn more efficiently by keeping “learning logs” that chronicle their experiences and through scheduled feedback sessions with their mentors.
  • Encouraging reverse mentoring from newcomers to elders, such as having newcomers tutor experienced personnel in social media.
  • Generating new knowledge by conducting research, benchmarking, or bringing in “resident” artists or scientists whose interactions with employees can spark creativity.

5 Ways to Ensure Critical Knowledge Transfer

  1. Ensure the team knows where deep smarts reside in the organization and which are at risk of loss or overutilization because they are rare. 
  2. Train experts as knowledge mentors for the next generation. 
  3. Help less experienced employees learn how to pull knowledge from those with deep smarts. 
  4. If the need for knowledge transfer is acute and immediate, seek tools and techniques beyond exit interviews. 
  5. Build knowledge transfer into the organization’s DNA.

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The four dimensions of a core capability

Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

Please enjoy Stan’s blog posts offering advice and insights drawn from many years as a KM practitioner. You may also want to download a free copy of his book, Lucidea’s Lens: Special Librarians & Information Specialists; The Five Cs of KM from Lucidea Press, and its precursor, Proven Practices for Implementing a Knowledge Management Program. And learn about Lucidea’s Presto, SydneyEnterprise, and GeniePlus software with unrivaled KM capabilities that enable successful knowledge curation and sharing.

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