Ever gotten frustrated by a problem at work, only to find out a week later that a colleague in a different department found a way to solve the issue a while back? Bet you wished that knowledge was shared better in your workplace. Knowledge sharing is a big point of contention in most companies – so big that Googling “knowledge sharing best practices” yields almost 6 million search results.
Wouldn’t it be great if you and your colleagues could just share their knowledge in a simple and efficient way? It could save time, energy and, as in the case that is discussed at the end of this post, even yield new, innovative and profitable(!) ideas. So let’s break down why knowledge sharing shouldn’t be an annoying activity you and your colleagues undertake, and exactly how the use of social collaboration tools like Workplace by Facebook or Yammer can help you make knowledge sharing more simple and valuable.
Knowledge sharing as a by-product of work
A very big benefit of using social tools to collaborate is that innovation, problem solving, discussion, and information sharing is captured. Because most of the collaboration takes place in online dialogues, the very elusive tacit knowledge – that traditional knowledge management systems never were able to capture – is captured as people work. Making tacit knowledge explicit is now a by-product of the collaboration process where in the past knowledge sharing was seen by most people as a fruitless activity that got in the way of getting real things done.
Be at the right place, at the right time
Compared to traditional knowledge management the knowledge that is captured in a social collaboration tool is a lot more relevant to other users because it has a clear context and is often demand based. If knowledge is shared as an answer to a question it is 100% relevant.
If a specialist needs to share his knowledge without a clear audience and question, it is very difficult to make the knowledge relevant to others, and being responsible for sharing and cascading this knowledge will also seem like an insufferable chore.
Keep your knowledge base up-to-date
The third great benefit to capture knowledge through social tools is related to knowledge or information becoming old and outdated. A lot of information stored in traditional knowledge systems is outdated from the moment it is uploaded, because so much time passes between the moment the document is created and when the document is revised, edited and published. With social content there is a much larger tendency to post shorter, faster updates without spending too much time on polishing. With social collaboration tools the knowledge is always connected to the person that uploaded the information and took part in the conversation. If the stored information is out of date, one can always contact the people involved and in most cases these people will be able to either update the information themselves or point to someone who can.
A case: collaborative innovation
One of the top 3 insurance firms in the Netherlands had a social collaboration platform to share knowledge and connect people. One day an employee spots a need in the market for a particular insurance product and he wondered why this was not a product his company provided, as the market for it was enormous.
When he asked about it on the social collaboration platform, he didn’t get a satisfying answer right away. He then proceeded to state that he was going to find out if it made sense for the company to offer this product. First, he asked if there were any market research results available in the company on the specific market. Within a week he received 5 research reports from different departments in the organization. Based on these reports he created a few rough concepts and used the platform to ask colleagues to help him improve on the propositions. This process led to 4 product concepts that were sufficiently interesting to warrant further research. The employee asked an actuary to do some initial calculations for each concept.
This created two things of value for the company:
Firstly, at this time one division of the company is developing one of the propositions to be taken to market in the next year.
Secondly, by asking specific questions to build the concepts and the business cases, the employee left a trail that leads to most of the knowledge and experts about this specific market and product type.
Using a social collaboration tool will help your organisation capture knowledge as a by-product of digital collaboration. Find out what what you don’t know your organisation knows, without time-consuming knowledge management protocols.
Want some more background on the dynamics of knowledge sharing and why knowledge sharing shouldn’t be your main focus? Contact us!