Knowledge is Power, but so is Sharing Knowledge… or More Ideas for New Year’s Resolutions
In an era of abundance of information and knowledge, as well as tools that facilitate knowledge sharing, we still struggle with the reality that knowledge sharing remains an enormous challenge. A large part of it is simply that knowledge sharing in an organization is deeply embedded in organizational culture, and changing organizational culture is without a doubt a long and bumpy journey. Sir Francis Bacon’s timeless maxim stating that knowledge is essentially the same as power has come to be seen in a different light. The aphorism is used to explain human conduct when we, despite our best intentions, tend to cling to our knowledge and contribute to the eternal conflict between individual and group rationality.
“How could we change the culture of knowledge sharing in our organizations?” we asked ourselves at a meeting of KM4Dev community of practice, which brought together international development practitioners interested in knowledge management and knowledge sharing. When you scroll down to read some of the ideas that our discussion group came up with, you might think that there is nothing new under the sun. Yet the truth is that these familiar and seemingly easy measures are sometimes forgotten. Thus it is a good time to revisit the basics of promoting knowledge sharing at the workplace.
First of all, the importance of knowledge management and sharing needs to be recognized by the management, and a long-term strategic approach needs to be taken. In designing knowledge management strategies, organizations might want to step outside the box by using the experience of other sectors. One essential point is that knowledge management needs to be integrated into human resources practices, and human resources managers should map staff competencies. Since employee performance is tied to motivation, organizations need to create incentives for knowledge sharing by recognizing champions in communications and giving awards for best knowledge sharing practices. Moreover, since all of us work under deadlines, time for the exchange of knowledge and experiences needs to be allocated.
In addition, organizations should encourage informal interaction that contributes to information exchange and actively support such initiatives. More informal settings do not only improve interpersonal relationships among employees but also help to establish links between knowledge demand and knowledge supply. One idea would be to organize problem-solving get-togethers, be it brown-bag lunches or coffee breaks.
Finally, organizations – and that is us – should promote the culture of asking questions. While we go through each day in the New Year, we should keep in mind: while knowledge is still power, so is sharing knowledge.
Oksana Buranbaeva (buranbaeva[at]vie.unu.edu)