Avoiding corporate (or institutional) amnesia may require action immediately. Almost everything we once thought of as a “permanent” storage media has let us down. I get a big kick out of books and movies that depend on the heroes reviving some ancient device to save the world. We cannot hook up a 9″ floppy disk player from forty years ago, and you expect the reader/viewer to believe a 4,000-year-old Rube Goldberg machine will cap the long-dormant volcano under New York City?
I say “immediate” because every single day once-reliable technology goes obsolete. Consider something as mundane as a part drawing; it might have started out as pencil or pen on velum paper. By 1970 we realized that even the best velum deteriorated, so there was a move to Mylar plastic. Within ten years we were microfilming everything; today it is difficult to find an actual drawing or a functioning microfilm reader outside of a university library.
That is because everything is digital, you say. Could you open a first-generation CAD drawing or spreadsheet right now? How about early word processing files? Maintaining corporate memory is an ongoing activity that has to be undertaken on several fronts.
Technology is only the most visible of these efforts. Being on the “cutting edge” of computers, software, printers, and storage is wonderful, but not at all helpful if your improvements do not drag your foundational documents along.
By “foundational” I mean the source of your catalog ratings, the evaluation of your product’s stresses, the logic behind the design decisions that shaped it — perhaps even the test results that support your patents.
Start by taking inventory of your “intellectual property;” once you know what you have you can begin to formulate a plan that insures you never find yourself wondering how your products came into being.