Without sharing, what is knowledge? As parents we work hard to share our life experiences with our kids. Why is the work environment so different?
I have said for years that the term Knowledge Management is so misunderstood that it does more harm than good. I strongly believe there is a place for knowledge management, but more importantly, we all need to focus on knowledge sharing.
Humans are pre-programmed to share their experiences with others. We do it with our children, our family and our friends. We even do it with complete strangers. How many times has someone asked you for directions or for a suggestion for a good place to eat? More often than not, we gladly volunteer our knowledge and wish the knowledge seeker good luck.
We are pre-programmed to share, we get enjoyment from doing it, yet we don’t seem to embrace it at work. Why do we act so differently at work?
Is it too difficult to share knowledge at work? We have many systems designed to help facilitate knowledge sharing at work and yet we struggle.
Are we simply too busy trying to get our work done to worry about sharing information? This is a silly notion, it’s like saying that we are too busy to be more productive. Do we feel it is a competitive advantage to hoard information, thus making it more difficult for the next guy? Some companies do not foster knowledge sharing even when studies prove that it leads to greater productivity.
I believe there is much room for improvement in knowledge sharing tools. If the tool requires a knowledge worker to take extra steps to make his or her knowledge available to others, the opportunity for failure increases. We need to be keen about how we design and use systems. We need to include knowledge sharing frameworks as part of an overarching system design and deliver frameworks that are easily portable to different applications. E-mail is a great example of a tool that would benefit greatly from such an approach. (see Get the conversation out of email).
We need systems that incorporate knowledge sharing as a core feature. But most important, we need companies that understand and promote the value of sharing knowledge.
The best approach to knowledge sharing is both the use of technology and a corporate culture that fosters knowledge sharing, supports the effort and clearly communicates the value. There are plenty of examples where knowledge sharing technology was in place and yet the initiative fails. Technology will help the adoption rate, but clearly, a cultural understanding of the benefits of sharing is key to the transformative success of knowledge sharing.