Do you have someone you call when the computer, car, washing machine, work procedure, doesn’t work? Who is your go-to person? We all have them and as the years grow upon me I have discovered how much I rely on certain people for certain parts of my life. One daughter is remarkable in her memory of names, she serves as an “external memory aid” (Wegner, 1987) and while I could tap into my cell phone (do you remember phone numbers anymore?) research continues to support the process that people encode, label, and retain knowledge internally first. We personalize certain information whether we learn by skill, practice, or access this information and by access I mean stored externally (books, computers) and this includes other people’s memory!
Leading a team and consulting others on growing a strong team could benefit from “transactive memory theory”. This theory identifies that the individual acts as an external memory source or repository so team members can use their strengths and rely on other’s knowledge and specific expertise. A solid team would have a common, and shared, understanding of not only the other team member’s strengths but a clear path to who knows what, i.e., who is the “go-to” person for specific information.
If you dig into Daniel Wegner’s site you can look at research that made me look at this tool as a way to increase group performance. What I read (okay, I skimmed because there is a lot!) showed interesting examples of groups who could identify and tap into their “go-to” people have a higher level of trust and increased levels of communication (check out Moreland & Argote, 2003). I can see this as a unique method of connecting remote workers to a more formal team, as leader make the remote “resource” be a “go-to” person and through their sharing of knowledge and expertise you will also reap the benefits of a more engaged and connected employee which will strengthen the team.
Moreland, R. L., & Argote, L. (2003). Transactive memory in dynamic organizations. In R. Peterson & E. Mannix (Eds.), Understanding the dynamic organization (pp. 135-162). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.