The importance of knowledge sharing should not be overlooked. Learning from others and, in return, sharing what you have learned can push the boundaries of collaboration and innovation - in all areas of life. Have you ever dreamed of conquering the world? How about starting your own company? These acts require knowledge. In this article, we explore the value of knowledge sharing and how it can be shared generously between people and within organizations.
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!
How do you share knowledge? Tweet us some examples at @OpenSocialHQ on Twitter.
Knowledge sharing at work
One of the most critical resources for any organization is knowledge (unlike gold - it’s infinite and available to all). The world is becoming more competitive and sharing knowledge is a lot more efficient with the rise of technology! This means its becoming more important for organizations to tackle knowledge sharing.
This means they need to become learning organizations. Have you heard this term before? It was popularized by Peter Senge in the 90’s and is defined as:
Organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together.
4 ways to share knowledge in organizations
Organizations need to find a way to learn and share knowledge continuously. There’s only one certainty in our uncertain world, and it’s that change will always occur. So, here are some ways organizations can implement a knowledge sharing process:
- Design offices to induce conversation. The influence of physical space should not be overlooked. There are a few ways that offices can encourage collaboration: setting up common coffee spaces, casual seating, and smaller conference tables. All of these will promote a more natural form of knowledge sharing.
- Actively encourage knowledge sharing. Not everybody is a natural public speaker or ‘round-table discusser’, and not everyone feels comfortable sharing their work. However, by merely setting time aside for face-to-face interactions or scheduling off-site events can help encourage this form of sharing.
- Incentivize knowledge sharing. Everyone loves incentives (or bribes, don’t deny it), so sharing small rewards can go a long way. For example, highlight an employee for good work to the rest of the company regularly or give low prizes (like some company swag) to the teams that have done exceptionally well.
- Find a knowledge sharing tool. Tools and software! We have choice enough when it comes to there. And they can make our lives a lot more comfortable. We’ll be diving into this topic in more detail below.
Knowledge sharing platforms
Have you ever asked yourself the same question over and over? Have you spent way too much time finding a document in google drive or dropbox? Here’s where a knowledge sharing platform will help.
Research conducted by McKinsey illustrated that workers spend around two hours a day looking for information that can eventually be translated into knowledge. That’s roughly 10 hours per working week! Hence, people implement platforms and tools to create an information sharing process and increase efficiency.
A platform is not only helpful when streamlining the knowledge sharing process. As millennials enter the workforce, we’re experiencing individuals joining and leaving companies so quickly that having an official memory is vital.
Choosing a platform
There’s a wide range of tools and platforms out there, each claiming to be better than the other. It’s hard to pick the best, so we’ve looked for which features we find important for a knowledge sharing platform:
- Interactivity: knowledge sharing is a two-way process, and the platform you choose must be a reflection of that. Private messaging, open discussion, and the ability to comment will help encourage communication.
- Smart file indexing: how to locate the right information is one of the keys to efficient knowledge sharing. Your platform must have good searchability and the ability to label and tag content. Essentially, the time on search should be cut down.
- Analytics: It’s incredibly useful to be able to keep track of shared information, who is sharing it, and which content is most popular. An analytics feature will help organizations devise a proper strategy.
- Sharing externally: You’ve shared, created, and indexed knowledge. But why only use this content internally? Your platform should have the ability to share this knowledge with others in open (to the public) groups, for example.
A community for knowledge sharing at work
Have you ever considered creating a community platform for knowledge sharing? It’s not a new idea. Plenty of organizations have invested time and money into intranets, which is a private network or community for employees to collaborate.
Open Social is a perfect solution for knowledge sharing. We create online community software that can be tailored to fit the needs of various organizations. For example, nonprofits and innovative companies have successfully adopted our plug-and-play online community software. Our features support a knowledge-sharing community that needs to interact with each other through comments and private messaging, create discussions and groups, and more. Take a look at our feature list!