Knowledge is one of the very few intangibles that when you share it, its intrinsic value increases. This is because out of the dispersion of knowledge, opportunity and innovation are formed. This dynamic drives all major economies around the globe. Without knowledge sharing, businesses would cease to grow and ultimately fail.
The key factor in leveraging knowledge is a group’s absorption and application rate. “The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage,” Dr. Arie de Geus, author of The Living Company.
Acknowledging the need for sharing information as a business strategy is only the first step. The next is streamlining the information flow and filtering out the important data from the white noise.
Information is Everywhere, but Knowledge is Hard to Come By
Many employees complain that the inundation of information from their knowledge management system is too cumbersome to analyze and prioritize. The fault in this lies in both knowledge ownership and system organization.
Knowledge sharing is a push and pull process that largely depends on the knowledge keeper’s desire and ability to share what he or she knows. A company’s ability to control the process and hedge any impediments is necessary for a business to thrive. The cornerstones of information sharing should not be left to the mindset of unique individuals, but put forth as precedents of the company’s culture. Articulating the business needs of knowledge sharing to employees and creating measures to guide the ebb and flow of company information is important to counteract individual bad habits.
Managing knowledge sharing is more than hiring smart people and letting them converse. You have to teach them your company’s fundamentals on collaborating, communicating, and replicating the process. While fundamentals are the building blocks, information management systems should be customized to acknowledge both user experience and desired company goals. In order to remove the layer of cumbersome, irrelevant data that streams to everyone, social constructs should be created to personify the data for easier filtration. Companies such as WhoKnows implement an enterprise social sharing application that identifies specific knowledge holders in a form akin to Facebook.
The efficacy of employee interactions directly affects your product creation, service implementation, and cash flow to the bottom line. Streamlining conversations, documenting ideas, and archiving data for accessibility in a controlled access environment is the best way for a company to utilize the minds of their employees to gain competitive advantage.
Knowledge Sharing in Practice
One very successful company that utilizes a knowledge sharing platform is Bristol Myers-Squibb (BMS). Donna Beccaria, head of the global R&D learning group for BMS, uses the term knowledge velocity when explaining the transfer of knowledge amongst different BMS organizations. Beccaria knows that the rate of knowledge transfer and absorption is crucial for her company’s success.
Beccaria uses online platforms to organize and distribute lectures, as well as collaborative web 2.0 applications (such as video chat and message boards). Because adults typically learn through interaction, the quicker that employees are able to convey knowledge around the company through various mediums, the more likely that that knowledge will not leave the company once its original keeper has gone.
Online learning helps ensure that information is not pocketed in one part of the company, and a company is not hostage to one individual with certain irretrievable knowledge. The quicker employees learn from each other, the more a company becomes successful.