Knowledge sharing organisations aren’t born, they’re made. Despite the critical role of knowledge sharing in contemporary organisational success, the fact remains that in many firms such exchange does not occur, or if it does, it occurs haphazardly, unevenly, and ad hoc.
It’s no secret that leaders across all industries amass significant knowledge as they move up the corporate ladder on their way to the c-suite. It’s also widely accepted that this knowledge, if shared, can be a powerful business tool and an infinitely impactful resource for employees that can add significant organisational value, so long as it’s harnessed correctly.
Indeed, according to recent US research among tech firms, 43 per cent of businesses polled said that improving knowledge sharing would boost productivity by 30 per cent or more, with 14 per cent saying an uptick of 50 per cent or more was possible.
While the importance of knowledge sharing in a business setting is widely accepted, it is all the more vital in today’s rapidly changing employee landscape. That’s because with competition for top talent fierce, especially for millennial workers, employers must do more than deliver TEDx-style talks to communicate meaningfully with staff to build trust and retain top performers. Here, knowledge sharing can also be transformative.
However, despite the critical role of knowledge sharing in contemporary organisational success, the fact remains that in many firms such exchange does not occur, or if it does, it occurs haphazardly, unevenly, and ad hoc. This tends to lead to sub-optimal results where knowledge is fragmented and lost via poor transmission so that this business wisdom — a valuable intangible asset for creating and sustaining competitive advantages — is wasted.
Knowledge Sharing Organisations Aren’t Born, They’re Made
Of course, the big upside of knowledge-sharing organisations is that they have the potential to continuously improve service delivery, which flows from leaders within such organisations seeing their own knowledge as a valuable currency and opportunity for learning for staff.
But becoming a knowledge-sharing organisation is easier said than done. It takes work. Firstly, in order for knowledge sharing to be embedded into organisational DNA, firms must have leadership that fosters an enabling environment for such sharing to take place.
Here, it is helpful for leaders to, for instance, encourage changes in culture if it is needed, provide supportive governance structures, and make available sufficient budgets for people and culture — all as a coordinated effort to develop knowledge capture, learning, and sharing.
Diving deeper, creating an enabling environment for knowledge sharing also necessitates strong leadership that treats knowledge sharing as part of everyday operations, not just as showing up with the answers in crisis. To this end, an enabling environment should also include attractive recognition mechanisms that reward staff for sharing knowledge and ideas, effective governance mechanisms for knowledge- and learning-related issues and robust policies that set out a roadmap and timeline for major milestones along the way.
Knowledge Sharing Means Transparent Communication
In practice, one of the keys in building a culture of knowledge sharing is transparency, especially as it relates to organisational communication. That’s because in a knowledge sharing environment that is operating effectively, valuable information is not just shared from the top-down, but also from the bottom up. That is to say, employees should be able to freely express their own ideas that they believe might contribute to future success.
Knowledge sharing via open communication in this way develops a sense of trust and awareness among employees and employers that encourages further knowledge sharing. As a leader, some helpful strategies here include scheduling regular meetings with staff to share news and insights, regularly engaging people via face-to-face conversations in the office, telling employee success stories and having an open-door policy where employees feel empowered to seek advice and guidance, rather than potentially being judged for failure.
Embedding Technical Capabilities to Share Knowledge
But it’s not all about culture, organisations also need to build technical capacity to share knowledge effectively and efficiently. A strategy here, according to the World Bank, is for leaders to systematically organise relevant knowledge into “operational experiences and lessons” and then package them into “knowledge and learning products” for staff. Once that process is complete, leaders then need to make sure these efforts are monitored and evaluated so that it is evident knowledge is being shared among the organisation as desired.
It’s Easy to Get Started
It may seem overwhelming for organisations, especially those at the smaller end of town, to get started on the track to becoming true knowledge sharing companies. However, there are some easy ways to kick off the journey that don’t take a lot of money, time and resources.
For instance, according to the Harvard Business Review, a good first step can be to foster a business setting that is conducive to sharing. Here, it’s important to note that sharing is difficult when employees are stressed and under pressure, so it’s advised that leaders try to build in time for staff reflection and analysis, and for employees to think about strategic plans, assess customer needs, dissect current work systems, and blue-sky new ideas.
Another easy strategy is to open up boundaries across the organisation to encourage sharing with events like conferences, meetings, and cross-disciplinary project teams, or teams that run vertically through the organisation. These initiatives can help ensure information sharing is occurring as well as ensure a fresh flow of ideas and the consideration of different perspectives across your organisation.
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