What is knowledge sharing?
Knowledge sharing comes in many shapes and form: at times it’s found in a conversation, on a knowledge sharing platform, integrated as a process, or just as small acts in organizations (to only name a few). Defining the term ‘knowledge sharing’ properly will make it easier to recognize.
Often, knowledge is confused with information. So, it might be useful first to distinguish the difference between the two. David Gurteen offered an excellent explanation of knowledge and information in his article on creating a knowledge sharing culture. We love it because it uses the analogy of cake (and who doesn’t love cake):
A more useful definition of knowledge is that it is about know-how and know-why. A metaphor is that of a cake. An analysis of its molecular constituents is data—for most purposes not very useful—you may not even be able to tell it were a cake. A list of ingredients is information—more useful—an experienced cook could probably make the cake—the data has been given context. The recipe though would be knowledge—it tells you how-to make the cake. An inexperienced cook however, even with the recipe might not make a good cake. A person, though, with relevant knowledge, experience, and skill—tacit knowledge—would almost certainly make an excellent cake from the recipe.
This lovely cake metaphor demonstrates that knowledge is a variety of information combined with experience, creativity, and intuition. Knowledge transforms information into a recipe for learning and action.
So what then is knowledge sharing? It’s the process of sharing expertise, information, and skills (the ingredients for knowledge) between people and organizations. Some don’t like sharing knowledge (also known as knowledge hoarders) because they feel like they will lose their edge/not be recognized by management. However, this is a complete fallacy. Only through sharing knowledge will you be able to work effectively together with others and grow at both an individual and group level.
5 benefits of knowledge sharing
Our useful cake analogy also helps us understand the value of knowledge. It allows us to collect information and use it wisely and accurately. For example, if you had guests over with gluten intolerance (highly likely nowadays), you’d be able to make an educated guess at a substitute for the flour the cake if you knew why that ingredient was chosen in the first place.
Knowledge sharing has benefits in all different spheres of life. We’ll be focusing on the value of knowledge sharing at work (and in your personal life):
- Building collective knowledge. Any organization or group benefits more when they share knowledge. Let’s say you managed to solve a problem, but you didn’t share it with the rest of your team. When the next team member struggles with it, you are limiting your success as a group (remember, you are only as strong as your weakest member).Faizuniah Pangil wrote about the importance of knowledge sharing and said that:
Organizations are like seas of knowledge. There is no limit to the amount of knowledge that an organization has. However, where the issue of knowledge sharing is concerned, it is most important that employees share their job-related knowledge with each other, so that they will be able to perform their job better and eventually lead to higher organizational performance.
- Accelerating change. Developments, thoughts, and discoveries change over time, often leaving old ideas behind in the dust. In this sense, a lot of knowledge has a shelf life. To keep up and take advantage of change, both organizations and individuals need to share and absorb knowledge to accelerate change in all areas: technology, business, and society.
- Innovation and creativity. “If you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room”, the saying goes. Knowledge sharing brings you a step further than just using the information; you can innovate and create. And the advantage of innovation can’t be disputed in our fast-changing times.
- Team cementing. When teams come together and share ideas, they begin to feel like they are pursuing a common goal. And at the end, each member feels like they contributed to the solution. Feeling like you are part of a functional team can do wonders for enthusiasm and empowerment of a team.
- Feeling valued. If you create an environment that encourages knowledge sharing (in your friend group or at work), individuals will feel like they are heard and appreciated. Moreover, motivation increases when you’re exposed to different skills and know-how. It makes you want to get the most from yourself as well.
While browsing various definitions and advantages of knowledge, one thing always stood out. At the core of all these different forms are growth and learning. Most of us want to get better at what we do, and the best way to do that is to listen to others and collect and share knowledge with others. Thus, creating a positive cycle of knowledge sharing.
What could go wrong? Avoid these 3 pitfalls!
Here’s an interesting question: is there ever a disadvantage to knowledge sharing? No, definitely not. However, there are three pitfalls to avoid when to comes to knowledge sharing:
- Don’t take on too much information. Have you ever had to cram in 10 articles on the night before a test? We imagine that it didn’t go well. Knowledge is only valuable when you take the time to understand and are able to re-share the knowledge. Moreover, there are so many ways to share knowledge at work, so don’t get tempted to try all of them at once. Instead, focus on which one will yield the most benefit for your team.
- Over-focusing on technology. It’s natural to be drawn to technical solutions (especially since there are excellent knowledge sharing tools, systems, and platforms out there: Open Social, for example). However, the technology is about supporting the people component of the process. Platforms and tools will not automatically mean knowledge will be shared effectively. A community requires people interaction, and community moderation and guidelines can help with that!
- Failing to experiment. If you’ve been given a new idea (or a recipe), before implementing it, you will need to test whether this works for you. At work, this process is referred to as prototyping and piloting. Most likely, the things you learn will need iterative improvements in your direction. Don’t just blindly accept, and make it your own!