Sharing knowledge. Parents do it with kids, teachers do it with students, peers do it with each other, employers do it with employees, and so on and so on. Much of this "knowledge sharing" is done in informal settings.
For example, during lunch in the cafeteria, one of the new sales reps bemoans the fact she needs to set up a Facebook event page for the webinar she's holding next week. She's not familiar with the ins and outs of Facebook, so she doesn't know where to begin. She happens to be sitting with the IT director who happens to be a Facebook junkie. He whips out his iPad and shows her how to set up an event page.
Great, right? The IT director is sharing his knowledge naturally, and the sales rep is benefitting from it. But what happens if a week later the sales rep needs to change something on the event page, but she doesn't know how? Should she reach out to the IT director? It's not really his job, after all. And the sales rep doesn't want him to think she's taking advantage of him—or that she wasn't paying attention.
You can see where we're going with this. While informal knowledge sharing can work well, it's also unpredictable. It happens on the fly or off the cuff. And it may not even happen fully, in some cases (as evidenced by our sales rep in the example above; one quick lesson on Facebook wasn't enough for her to learn what she needed to learn).
However, if a formal knowledge sharing system existed, the sales rep could turn to that system when she needed help without worrying about office politics or whether someone would be judging her and so forth.
That's the beauty of formal knowledge sharing systems: they're designed so people can easily access the knowledge they need, when they need it, from the knowledge experts who already exist within your organization.
But wait. What? Still not convinced your organization needs a formal knowledge sharing system? We get it. Knowledge sharing might sound like something only the "big guys" can do. But organizations large and small should consider having some sort of formal system in place. Here are four reasons why.
Oftentimes, important knowledge won't get shared unless a formal system is in place.Sure, the informal sharing of knowledge will continue to happen naturally. But there's no guarantee that everyone who has knowledge will know with whom he or she should share it or that everyone in need of specific knowledge will know where to access it.
When a formal system is in place, you have much more control. Not only can you encourage people to share their expertise with one another, but also monitor who is sharing what.
Knowledge share programs help dismantle silo mentalities.Simply put, a "silo" mentality means certain people or departments refuse to share information with other people/departments. In the past, this sort of organizational structure was even encouraged as a way to promote competition among departments. The problem, however, is that hoarding information can breed resentment and create inefficiencies (e.g. the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing).
A good knowledge share program eliminates the silo mentality, since it encourages the sharing of knowledge across departments. Instead of creating an adversarial environment, you'll create a more collaborative one. (Note: we're not suggesting that healthy competition among departments/coworkers is a bad thing. The keyword is "healthy.")
- An effective knowledge share system will objectively reveal who the true leaders are in your organization.
Some people are experts and don't know it, and some peoplethink they're experts and aren't.
A formal knowledge share system will help reveal "what's what" and "who's who" in a controlled, fair, and diplomatic setting. And it allows everyone to learn, share, and grow.
Knowledge share programs can enrich your succession planning process.The crux of succession planning involves disseminating critical information from the outgoing party to the person taking over. What better way to manage and monitor the transfer of this knowledge than by way of a formal process or program?
Do you have a formal way to share knowledge in your organization? Share your experiences in the comments.
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