Over the years, every organization amasses a wealth of knowledge through its dealing with a variety of challenges that arise in its work. This knowledge, gained through the implementation of formal education and professional training in real-life situations, is often one of the organization’s greatest assets that contribute substantially to the quality of its operations. Surprisingly, it is an asset that’s often overlooked, and always to the detriment of an organization.
The collective know-how of an organization is one of the crucial elements of its productivity. Research has shown - time and time again that organizations that are capable of capturing and sharing the individual know-how of its members are more productive than those that fail to do so.
Over the following lines, we will take a closer look at the link between knowledge sharing and productivity before detailing the various techniques that encourage and increase knowledge sharing on an organizational level.
Why does knowledge sharing matter?
The true value of knowledge sharing is most obvious in its absence. In every organization, there are individuals with a greater degree of knowledge and experience in critical areas of operations. What happens when one such employee is not available? What happens if they decide to leave the company?
Finding a systematic way to record, preserve and share individual knowledge and experience can prepare organizations to better deal with unforeseen circumstances.
On the opposite side, organizations that fail to share that knowledge are at a greater risk of inefficiency and time-wasting.
To bring things down to practical terms, there are three main ways the lack of collective knowledge wastes the time of individual employees.
Waiting for information: How often do you have to wait for a colleague in possession of unique knowledge to provide the information necessary for you to continue your work? Recent research indicates that workers spend more than five hours per week waiting for relevant information. Chances are that this time could be significantly shorter with an effective system of knowledge sharing.
Needless research: Individual research can be a big part of our professional development, but it is not always necessary. Think of how much time employees could save if the necessary information was readily available within the organization, instead of searching blindly for answers that are already there.
Double work: One of the more common issues that arise from the absence of shared knowledge within an organization is double work - employees doing work that, unbeknownst to them, has already been done by someone else within the organization. It is easy to imagine how a well-structured knowledge base could decrease and even prevent such occurrences.
To conclude, a strong culture of knowledge sharing can save you time in a variety of ways, thus allowing you to focus that time on getting things done.
How to share individual knowledge
The specific know-how that we have covered in this article is not a monolith of uniform knowledge, but an eclectic collection of different types of information, from general logistics to technical know-how and beyond. Just as the nature of these units of knowledge is diverse, such are the various techniques for knowledge sharing. Different methods are suited for different types of information, and a combined approach is bound to produce better results.
Here are a few most common methods organizations utilize to distribute knowledge:
Knowledge base: A dedicated depository with all the information relevant to all aspects of an organization’s work. Today’s technology makes it fairly easy to create and maintain a digital archive of all necessary and useful information, from educational resources to standards and practices, project documentation, employee records, and so on.
If you’re looking for an out-of-the-box solution that allows you to store and share knowledge in a variety of formats in a convenient and organized manner that allows you to control access, an internal company blog can become a systematic growing knowledge base for your organization.
Internal education: Educational efforts within organizations can often be more effective than external training. Teammates share the same work, speak the same language and easily identify the information that can be useful to other team members. Presentations, workshops, clubs dedicated to specific technologies or professional areas - these are some of the more common modes of internal education, but you can probably find the model (or models) that best suit your working environment, as well as the right incentives and rewards for employees who make the effort to share knowledge.
Mentoring: We’re using the term “mentoring” in a very broad sense that spans any form of collaboration in an applied setting, where knowledge is shared and transferred through practical work. Being able to observe your teammates at work can be a powerful learning experience. From the process of onboarding and through continued professional development, organizations should be mindful of team structure to ensure that employees get not only theoretical support but also colleagues who can provide a practical example to follow and learn from.
Creating a culture of knowledge sharing does not happen overnight. It is a process that requires a lot of thought, organization, and effort, but also reveals its rewards in the long run, through stability, continuity, consistency, and efficiency.