Originally published May 28, 2021

This is the 68th article in the Profiles in Knowledge series featuring thought leaders in knowledge management. Dennis Pearce is a knowledge management and social business/collaboration strategist with extensive experience in engineering, manufacturing, IT, strategic planning, process improvement, and change management. He is currently the Online Communities and Collaboration Strategist for Start Early in Greenville, South Carolina. Previously he was the Enterprise Knowledge Architect for Lexmark International in Lexington, Kentucky, focusing on internal and external collaboration strategies and systems.

Dennis has been a member of the SIKM Leaders Community since 2009. He recently led a peer assist and discussion on Working Out Loud for the community, and will help lead a follow-on Knowledge Café on June 9, 2021. I met him at KMWorld in 2015 and 2016 and at the Midwest KM Symposium in 2017 and 2019. We share interests in Enterprise Social Networks, Communities of Practice, collaboration, and rock music.


Dennis Pearce has over 30 years of experience in manufacturing, product development, quality, IT, and knowledge management. He started as a plastics manufacturing engineer for AMP, then IBM. He moved into IBM’s Plastics Technology Center in the 1980s where he developed an interest in artificial intelligence and began working on manufacturing-related expert systems. The AI interest morphed into a KM interest in the 1990s, which prompted him to go back for his Ph.D.

Dennis is into knowledge management, education reform, communities of practice, collaboration, ultimate disc, critical thinking, and prog rock.


  • 2019 — Present: Start Early, Greenville, South Carolina — Online Communities and Collaboration Strategist
  • 2018–2019: Igloo Software, Lexington, Kentucky — Senior Solution Strategy Consultant
  • 1993–2017: Lexmark, Lexington, Kentucky
  • 2007–2017: Enterprise Knowledge Architect; Member of Change Agents Worldwide and of Jive Software’s Champions customer group
  • 2002–2007: Knowledge Management Applications Manager
  • 1983–1993: IBM — Advisory Engineer, Plastics Technology Center


  • University of Kentucky
  1. Ph.D., Decision Sciences/Knowledge Management, 2002–2015
  2. Graduate Certificate in Applied Statistics
  • University of North Carolina at Charlotte: Master of Business Administration, 2002–2005
  • Lehigh University: Bachelor of Science, Chemical Engineering, 1973–1977



  1. Posts
  2. Articles

1. ESN Adoption Series

  1. Introduction
  2. Theory of Reasoned Action
  3. Technology Acceptance Model
  4. Diffusion of Innovations Theory
  5. Task-Technology-Fit Model
  6. Hedonic Motivation System Adoption Model
  7. Representation Theory
  8. Swift Trust Theory

2. Lessons Learned Series

Nine stages of the Lessons Learned Life Cycle

  1. Initiation: Some event that triggers the need to capture a lesson.
  2. Recognition: The awareness by the organization that the event in question contains a lesson.
  3. Capture: Gathering the essential facts, stories, and other elements that will create the lesson.
  4. Validation: How do we know that the lesson we want to preserve is valid and correct?
  5. Scoping: Determining how broad or narrow the applicability of this lesson is to the organization.
  6. Storage: How will this lesson be preserved so that it can be accessed in the future?
  7. Dissemination: Getting the lesson into the hands (and heads!) of the people in the organization who need to know it.
  8. Institutionalization: This is probably the most crucial stage. How do we ensure that the lesson is embedded so deeply in the organization that we can say that it has been learned? What does it even mean for a company to learn something?
  9. Maintenance: Some lessons are context or time dependent. The usefulness of a lesson might fade over time, and today’s best practice could even become tomorrow’s disaster as situations change. So how do we ensure that lessons remain fresh and relevant? How do we guarantee that we have not only organizational memory but also organizational forgetting where appropriate?
  1. You Can Lead a Firm to Knowledge But You Can’t Make It Think
  2. What is a Lesson?
  3. Initiation and Recognition
  4. Capture
  5. Capture Using After Action Reviews
  6. Ten Tips for Facilitating After Action Reviews
  7. Additional Ways to Capture Lessons
  8. The Role of the Knowledge Intermediary in the Lessons Learned Life Cycle
  9. Validation
  10. Scoping
  11. Storage
  12. Dissemination
  13. Integration
  14. Maintenance

3. Working Out Loud Series

  1. Ideas Jumbled Out Loud
  2. The Roots of Working Out Loud
  3. Is “working out loud” collaborating or sharing?
  4. If Knowledge is Power, then “Working Out Loud” is the Generator
  5. Our Survey Says … Work Out Loud!
  6. How Working Out Loud Can Reshape Your Organization
  7. Wroking Out Loud
  8. Flocking Out Loud

Information Week

  1. Are Social Businesses Really More Innovative? 7/16/2014 — A strong enterprise social network can improve innovation in an organization, according to anecdotes and self-reported survey data. But how can we measure more accurately?
  2. Expand Your Collaboration ‘Footprint’ 5/19/2014 — Use the collaboration footprint method to reveal strengths and weaknesses in how your business shares information.
  3. Social Business: Why Group Adoption Matters 2/18/2014 — Social business adoption shouldn’t focus on individuals. Instead, success stems from groups. Here’s why.
  4. How To Revive Social Business Adoption 11/25/2013 — Tracking your social business numbers helps you know when it’s time to shift your strategy. Here’s what to do when adoption slows.
  5. Social Business Discussions Are The New Documentation 11/21/2013 — Social business is changing how we document business processes and IT operations. Here’s why.
  6. 7 Ways To Drive Social Business Buy-In 11/20/2013 — A successful transition to a social business hinges on employee adoption. Plan carefully for these seven ways people perceive change.
  7. 5 Social Business Adopter Types: Prepare Early 11/19/2013 — Employees resisting social business? You can improve adoption by predicting how these types will react to new ideas.
  8. Innovation Begs For A Crock-Pot, Not Blender 8/23/2013 — Everyone’s trying to create environments for rapid innovation, but some ideas need to simmer for a while.
  9. Social Business Demands Working Out Loud 8/23/2013 — Encourage employees to narrate their work as part of doing their work.

Articles With and By Others

1. Working Out Loud Turns Knowledge Into a Utility

2. Lexmark Recognized with Three Global Manufacturing Leadership Awards by Amanda Stamper

  • Enterprise Technology Leadership (Enterprise social networking)
  1. In 2012, in an effort to eliminate silos of information and increase worldwide employee communication, engagement and collaboration, Lexmark began eliminating ancillary and disparate platforms and tools — including Lotus Notes, TWiki, MediaWiki, Yammer, Vignette, Xoops and DekiWiki — and moved the company to the Jive social collaboration platform, which Lexmark named “Innovate.”
  2. Since then, there have been major improvements in customer support, product usage by our customers, knowledge management and sharing outside of functional areas, general global employee communications and feedback, new employee orientation and spot learning.
  • This is the first Manufacturing Leadership award Lexmark has received that spans the entire enterprise.
  1. “While this award emphasizes technology, it’s not really about software — it is about Innovate being a collaboration and communication success,” said Dennis Pearce, enterprise knowledge architect.
  2. “We consistently have over 11,000 users logging in, creating and participating in hundreds of discussions and blog posts every month. No social networking technology would be this successful without our employees’ desire and willingness to collaborate, share information and help each other that Lexmark employees routinely display.”

3. Social Business Council and Susan Scrupski

  1. Lexmark International is a Lexington, KY based firm that has traditionally focused on printing solutions and services. As the company expands into new markets such as content management and business process management, it has begun to closely examine the benefits of overhauling the corporate culture to better align with and reinforce its business strategy. As this shift occurs, the company has had to ask itself several key questions, namely how to become more innovative and agile as new markets and opportunities emerge. Additionally, after acquiring five companies over a two-year span, Lexmark faces another question — how best to bring aboard all of these companies and integrate them into the organization in a seamless fashion.
  2. Dennis Pearce, an Enterprise Knowledge Architect at Lexmark believes that leveraging enterprise 2.0 is at least one feasible approach. “We see social business as essential to answering these questions,” said Pearce at Lexmark. “By giving all employees maximum visibility to information and activity taking place across the enterprise, we can generate the raw material for new ideas and the connections that will help us rapidly form the teams needed to take advantage of them.”

4. Social Collaboration, Team Messaging And The Future by David Carr

  • Dennis Pearce, an Enterprise Knowledge Architect at Lexmark who oversees a Jive social intranet, was less interested in team messaging as a product category. Although Jive has its own team messaging tool, Jive Chime, as part of a suite of workstyle apps, he hasn’t seen the need for another instant messenger tool.
  • “Products like Slack and HipChat — I know some of the programmers have played around with those tools, but they don’t tend to get very far,” he said. Part of the reason for adopting Jive in the first place was to get away from a fragmented environment where lots of little collaboration tools were in use.
  • While team chat succeeds because of the level of the organization where most of the work gets done, he said there is no reason why an ESN can’t grow in the same way, Pearce said. “Instead of big training sessions or widespread corporate initiatives, I spend most of my time working with departments and teams, with the goal of getting them to move into the ESN as a group rather than each person as an individual,” he said. “This way they all have a reason to use the tool as soon as they get into it, and they are more likely to give up email and become more productive when there are fellow employees there for them to work with.”
  • I tried to get Pearce talking about the technologies he would like to see in the future, but he was more focused on making the best us of what’s available today. That may be a healthy attitude. Since communication and collaboration are human activities, the choice of a technology platform doesn’t necessarily determine success or failure. However, I would say that it does set limits on what you can achieve.

5. Re-habiting the working out loud habit: What I am working on this week #wolweek by Jeff Merrell

  • I think of working out loud as an amplifier for other structures such as CoPs and virtual teams. It’s like having a meeting in a radio broadcast booth instead of in a conference room. Your intended audience will still be there because they know it’s a regularly scheduled program, but you will also pick up listeners who were just cruising down the highway hitting the scan button and happened to stumble across something interesting to them.

Community Contributions

SIKM Posts

  • Working Out Loud
  1. Discussion / Peer Assist on May 7, 2021Video
  2. Knowledge Café on June 9, 2021



Working Out Loud

  • I think building a personal brand is a byproduct of WOL, not a goal. I would make two points here:
  1. John Stepper’s book does a good job detailing how the WOL mindset is about sharing in ways that add value for others, not just for yourself.
  2. The original definition of WOL that Bryce Williams proposed is that it equals narrating your work + observable work. People often focus on the narrating part and overlook the fact that you can also DO work openly, not just talk about it.
  • When a team decides to use a collaboration platform instead of email, they benefit immensely as a team. But when they go the additional step of using that platform in an open way so that the rest of the organization can see the work in real time as it happens, they benefit the entire organization.
  • Companies are notorious for not documenting internal processes and procedures. WOL can help with that because if people are doing their work on an ESN platform rather than through channels like email, the activities creating those processes and procedures will be captured as a matter of course rather than as a specific effort that no one ever seems to have time for. Granted, they won’t be slickly packaged documents with tables of contents, but it’s better than nothing, which is what usually happens. Plus you also capture WHY decisions were made which helps down the road when someone is looking to update and make improvements. It also makes exit interviews less critical because employees have been documenting their work all along.
  • I wrote a blog post on this topic. I see WOL as a third way beyond the traditional push and pull views of KM. I like to think of it as a way to make knowledge a utility, similar to water or electricity.
  • For anyone who wants to dig into this topic more deeply, I did my doctoral dissertation on WOL and in the first third of it I tried to capture the history of social business and WOL, before that historical trail evaporates. The middle third is the statistical gobbledygook that was my actual research, but in the last section I try to show the organizational benefits that come when the entire enterprise is working out loud. I also summed those benefits up in a blog post where I argue that WOL is going to be an essential trait for any companies looking to move toward a flatter, more holocratic organizational structure.

Conference Presentations

  1. 2017 What’s Wrong with Working Out Loud?
  2. 2019 Lessons Learned Lifecycle
  1. 2016 C204: Hacking the Water CoolerSlides
  2. 2015 B105: “Working Out Loud” (WOL): Perspectives PanelSlides

Book Chapter

  • Computer-Integrated Manufacturing in Plastics Processing Plants edited by Keith T. O’Brien, 1993, Hanser Publishers — Chapter: Artificial Intelligence in the Plastics Industry

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager https://sites.google.com/site/stangarfield/