This is from a column entitled The Benefits Of Enterprise Social Media, published by Forbes magazine:

The first payoff comes when someone uses a template to avoid a mistake or to do a better job than they could without it. This is how processes get more efficient. But the bigger payoff is the creation of an institutional memory and a playbook that expands and changes as the work of the company evolves to meet new challenges. Activity templates allow tribal knowledge to be captured so that turnover is less traumatic.

What do tribal knowledge and traumatic mean in that last sentence?

  • 1
    A synonym for "tribal knowledge" in this context is "institutional memory".
    – TimR
    Mar 2, 2016 at 18:51
  • I'm glad you're getting some responses to your question, but you may want to wait a while before accepting an answer. This post on meta explains some of the reasons why waiting a few days before accepting an answer is a good idea: meta.ell.stackexchange.com/q/1307/9161
    – ColleenV
    Mar 2, 2016 at 19:13
  • @ColleenV you are right. I should wait more.
    – abcsd
    Mar 2, 2016 at 19:41

2 Answers 2


"Tribal knowledge" in this instance refers to the achievements of individual incentive and innovation being shared with others in the company by continuously updating and improving the company's "activity templates," which helps to keep things fresh for the employees and reduces the "trauma" that is caused by the frequent turnover of staff. Turnover is "traumatic" because experienced co-workers (including friends and familiar acquaintances) leave to seek other positions, and those who replace them have to be trained and integrated into the team. It is a way of saying that shared experience not only improves workplace conditions but also helps with employee retention.

See also http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/traumatic and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tribal_knowledge

  • I don't understand what you mean by "individual incentive and innovation". Neither of those words correspond well to "knowledge" for me. I don't know exactly how to share my "incentive and innovation" with my team mates. I think I'm misreading something because I just don't get it.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 2, 2016 at 19:17
  • Hi again, @ColleenV. I added "to the achievements of" to the first sentence to make it more clear what I intended. Does this address your concerns? As always, I appreciate your comments and assistance. Mar 2, 2016 at 20:54
  • That helps. I think I understand a bit better what you're saying.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 2, 2016 at 20:57

This is from an IBM (large, corporate) business model. Essentially, the author is using (in my opinion incredibly archaic or politically correct) jargon to describe the function of their information gathering systems streamlined under one computer program.

Tribal knowledge appears to mean the aggregate information coming into and being processed by IBM. Traumatic is referring to what typically happens to a position's knowledge base when an employee is fired or quits. Their new program will serve as a template to the next person filling the vacancy.

  • Tribal knowledge isn't that archaic. There is a lot of interest lately in methods to capture the knowledge that experienced employees have that usually doesn't end up written down, also known as tribal knowledge. It is not information coming into the company, it is wisdom passed from employee to employee in a company, much like a tribe teaching their children.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 2, 2016 at 19:00

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .