Knowledge is becoming increasingly important in a world where many other advantages, previously the domain of large (rich) companies, are no longer. You may not remember these times, but you used to need a lot of money to create a platform where you could reach your audience. Whereas all you need these days is a simple WordPress website.
You used to need a brick and mortar store to sell your products to your customers. Now all you need is a web shop (again, WordPress is your friend) and you’re able to sell your goods internationally.
For the majority of companies, knowledge is now the main competitive edge they need to survive in today’s world.
All companies contain knowledge in various forms:
- Employee experience and skills
- Processes and design for your products/services
- Customer processes, behavior etc.
- Files of documents (digital/paper)
- Future plans (products, strategy etc.)
The trick to gaining a competitive edge these days is to find a way to leverage the knowledge you already have more effectively.
Here are 5 pointers to get you on your way.
1. Design your office for sharing
This may not seem important, but closed off cubicles, no common spaces, separate offices, these are all things that make it more difficult for people to engage with one another. Being able to have face to face conversations helps people learn from and share with each other. Keep this in mind when making design choices.
2. Ask your employees to share
Maybe they´ve never thought of sharing, maybe they don´t know how to share their specific knowledge. Ask and facilitate sharing with coworkers. Start with your onboarding process: assign a mentor to (all) new employees, this instills the idea of sharing knowledge from the very beginning by allowing experienced workers to impart their know-how and allowing mentees to feel open to ask questions.
3. Do facilitate
I use the word facilitate in the previous paragraph and really want to emphasize this point. We ask a lot of our employees, which is good: a competitive work environment where getting bored is not an option is great for individual performance. If we want our people to also take time to share what they know and have learned, we need to give them the time and means to do so.
We need to provide space in their workload and the right processes and systems to make sharing as easy as possible. Besides that, we must make them accountable for sharing their knowledge. If they get rewarded for their core tasks, but not for knowledge sharing, sharing will be put on the back burner.
4. Overcome obstacles
I have named several obstacles already (time, systems, processes, office design), but there are more than just those, and most are psychological in nature. You need to address these and make your company a safe space for sharing. I’ll name two:
1. Employees might be afraid others will steal their ideas and benefit unfairly from their knowledge
Remind your employees that knowledge sharing is not just about the big ideas, but mostly about sharing the “little things” that we have saved in our individual brains. Cultivate a team work mentality that benefits from differing viewpoints.
2. Employees don’t see value in sharing
Make an effort to show the value of sharing. Send a newsletter, share cases, make a point of showcasing how sharing affects the bottom line.
5. Cater to different strokes
Keep in mind that you are dealing with individuals. An employee’s individuality is part of the experience which makes them such an asset to your company. Each has his or her own way of learning and sharing. Try to cater to the different types in your organization as much as possible. As you would with your clients/customers: get to know your audience and try to cater to their individual needs.
Organizational sharing of knowledge brings many benefits. Potential improvement of your products or services, increase in customer satisfaction, increased efficiency, better recruitment and improved productivity are among the many ways effective knowledge sharing will help you keep your edge.
Is your company fit for knowledge sharing? And what is your one important tip to make it happen?