As business cycles accelerate, now more than ever, “knowledge is power.” Businesses know they must capture and cultivate the wisdom and insights provided by their operations, and executives are looking for more effective methods to share information, ideas and expertise internally. We have found that all too often, companies possess this knowledge but they aren’t leveraging it. Most see this as simply an access or sharing problem. In other words, they want to make information available to a larger number of people within the organization so they implement some sort of web site or system and they get marginal improvement at best.
But why is this?
Well, for an organization to maximize its capabilities in this area it must address four things:
◾Identify what information is valuable
◾Give everyone a reason to share it
◾Facilitate access via a tool or system
◾Minimize organizational barriers
For this reason, our approach favors implementing a robust knowledge classification system and then leveraging codification, strong adoption and personalization practices to address all of these areas and maximize the benefit.
Information classification involves identifying what information has value and to whom, and its implementation can range from the very basic to the very complex – which usually depends upon both the maturity of the organization and its industry. We also recommend looking at how people expect to receive each type of information as well. Regardless, a little effort goes a long way here, and we’ll do a follow up blog post on it soon.
Codification involves capturing key knowledge for organization and storage in a system. Common activities include establishing a knowledge repository such as a wiki that allows employees to share their lessons and to better communicate roles and responsibilities and current assignments. Personalization uses a collaborative approach to ensure everyone understands the need to share and adopt the practices. It is needed primarily to overcome stakeholder reluctance to share information. In our work we’ve identified these as the primary obstacles to knowledge sharing:
◾Not enough time/too busy
◾Questions about information completeness/quality
◾Functional or other structural barriers
◾Geographic challenges such as differing time zones
◾Fear of relinquishing unique information
Our method supports these activities through the following:
◾Building the right organization and knowledge management culture by leveraging organizational design and development principles to identify the knowledge targets, promote the vision and benefit message, and to reduce the number of obstacles
◾Developing an incentive system based on metrics to reward employees who display the desired behavior, thus helping to sustain and grow the behavior
◾Conducting ‘sharing’ sessions such as workshops (classroom, face-to-face, e-learning) that disclose best practices and lessons learned
◾Promoting networking opportunities to encourage employees to attend industry conventions or coordinate social mixers to gain knowledge for the collection from other sources
Used together, these methods form a comprehensive solution which can provide numerous benefits almost immediately. Here are just a few of the benefits we’ve seen:
◾Quicker and better understanding of customer and partner needs
◾Better identification of threats to the organization
◾Earlier identification of new market opportunities
◾A higher degree of organizational learning and talent development
◾Improvement in formal and informal communication networks to maximize the use of expertise across the organization
◾Cultivation of trust, transparency and recognition within the organization’s culture
This is exactly the kind of competitive advantage that companies need to excel today, the capabilities can be implemented quickly, and the cost-benefit case is outstanding. Knowledge truly is power.