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Complexity and Knowledge Management Navigators…

How to ‘make’ people share knowledge!

Time to put my money where my mouth is; I’ve been challenged a few times now to show how you can ‘make’ people share knowledge or take part in organisational knowledge and learning (KM) processes – this is building on our past blog, “For KM’s sake, get the people factor right!“.

Fair enough…

You can’t!

Seriously, short of a Jack Bauer approach to HR policy, you just can’t ‘make’ people share knowledge or contribute to your organisational knowledge and learning processes.  That’s the bad news.  Now, for what you can do, you can stimulate the process:

  • Set the scene from the outset – and get the right people – make sure that your recruitment and selection processes reflect the knowledge intensity of the post – think competency based approach and behavioural driven interview processes
  • Construct job descriptions to ensure that they are up-to-date and reflect the organisation’s knowledge and learning needs
  • Socialisation (induction processes) need to convey the knowledge message and demonstrate the knowledge intensity of the post – think about moving beyond ‘training’ to an applied ‘problem solving’ environment that leads into the job itself
  • Structure annual appraisal processes to take into account the four functions of KM, which needs to link to the knowledge intensity of the job description
  • Pay and reward systems, again, need to reflect the knowledge intensity of the role
  • Leadership in an integral element to effective participation in knowledge driven processes – can your staff provide a leadership snapshot of the last time that you effectively demonstrated participation in the four key functions of KM (Using, sharing, creating or acquiring & storing knowledge)?
  • Is credit given where credit is due – how do you celebrate successful KM ‘events’?  Think trust!  Can your staff provide a leadership snapshot to support this?
  • How safe is it to fail – are staff afraid to try something new? Again, think trust!  And, again, can they provide a leadership snapshot to support this?

This is by no means a definitive list and is designed to complement other aspects that we have discussed in past blogs, but it will give you a flavour of how we start to ensure that people begin to engage with organisational knowledge and learning processes.  This, for us, is the key to success.  To enable this you need to understand the HR aspect of your operations, after all, knowledge and innovation are people processes, and you need to nurture a partnership with your HR Director; in some cases, if they are engaged in a legacy (personnel driven) HR function, this is going to mean a programme of learning and development for them.

We have found that this is the biggest challenge when to come to designing organisational knowledge and learning processes; something that legacy KM consultancy frameworks and models just don’t appreciate.  The process starts with people, surely this means that we need to look at out knowledge and learning processes from the potential employee’s first contact with the organisation.

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3 comments on “How to ‘make’ people share knowledge!

  1. Pingback: Change and Knowledge Management | The 6 Box Model

  2. Pingback: Knowledge Sharing: Jack Bauer & Pushing String | Dr. Dan's Daily Dose

  3. david griffiths
    June 17, 2011

    There is an interesting discussion thread going on in LinkedIn about this blog:

    Here is some of the content and my follow-up…thought it would be interesting to share…

    Tracy Thoman • This may sound kind of silly, but it’s kind of like poker or blackjack, or for that matter the stock market. One’s own knowledge, experience, expertise, innovative ideas = a stack of chips on the edge of the table, in their possession. The stack is varied and comes in different denominations of value. The company = the house, who wishes to possess or put into use those chips for their benefit, gain, leverage. If the stakes are seen as beneficial, more chips are likely to be moved to the center of the table. If there is not a reward or “win” as chips are offered and used, distrust creeps in and chips begin to pull back. Recognition in the organization (exposure), a feeling of contribution, monetary bonuses as knowledge is used and is validated as having gaind the company value, small gifts, etc. could all serve as a worthy “win” in my opinion…

    Rich Nimrod • Tracy has a very apropos example for this day and age, definitely not silly.
    Good to see that Tracy acknowledged recognition types that have the best currency for all groups. The “literature” and research out there show the tendency for small (useful) gifts (GC to a gym or spa), flexibility in their work (time and place), or training as rewards hold more currency for millennial rather than certificate awards or cash. See “The 2020 Workplace” by J.C. Meister & K. Willyerd and its references for those interested in such studies.

    Nick Milton • Actually I am not sure it is such a good analogy I am afraid. The thing about knowledge which is different from poker chips, is that you can give it away and keep it at the same time. You can put your “knowledge chips” in the middle, and still keep your chips yourself. So the choice is between keeping your own small pile of “knowledge chips”, and being able to use everyone’s chips as well as your own.

    Also it is not “the company” that “wishes to possess” the chips, it’s the community of people around the table that can choose to hold the chips in common, and the company that chooses to support and facilitate that.

    I don’t believe knowledge is transactional in the way that money is.

    Charles DeRosa • I agree with Nick on this topic. Knowledge shared is truly a “gift that keeps on giving”. If you share a useful technique with others, you lose nothing and spread wealth throughout your community. This is the essence of community.

    “The fact that I can plant a seed and it becomes a flower, share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another’s, smile at someone and receive a smile in return, are to me continual spiritual exercises.” – Leo F. Buscaglia (American guru, tireless advocate of the power of love, 1924-1998)

    Best regards,
    Charles DeRosa

    Some interesting reflections here. I’m not going to debate the merits of Tracy’s analogy; to be honest, I get exactly what she is trying to say…

    Basically the organisation has an interest in leveraging knowledge for competitive advantage and/or enhanced decision making capability. To do this they have to manage the environment to encourage and enable the use, sharing acquisition & storage and development (innovation) of knowledge.

    What we have to remember is that the company or organisation is not doing this for altruistic reasons, they are engaging in these activities for business reasons, primarily, for knowledge intensive organisations, I would debate that this is to build dynamic capacity – we can further debate the needs of third/public sector organisations to develop knowledge for public good. However, ultimately, this is about knowledge transactions and how the organisation can utilise its human resources to its advantage.

    While we can speak of individual or community altruism and the power of a piece of knowledge shared, we also have to acknowledge that organisations are subject to power and politics, where, I would suggest, most transactions are weighted with a consideration of issues such as: ‘what is in this for me’, ‘how does this advance my position’, or ‘how does this raise my profile’. This is where the organisation needs to manage the transaction framework to, using Tracy’s gambling analogy, improve the odds of success.

    We can nit pick over the bones of individual perceptions of knowledge sharing transactions, but, putting my cards on the table (another nod to Tracy there), my interest is in the needs of the organisation – it is the ‘body’ that is the organisation, in which the individual contributes their mind, body (perhaps soul), that employs us, remunerates us and contributes to our quality of life. So, from my perspective, I am quite happy to help facilitate the management of that environment for what I believe to be the betterment of all.

    I know that’s a lot to digest and there’s not enough space here for me to explain the nuts and bolts of everything that comes together to achieve this, but I hope it gives you a flavour of my thinking and why I can see exactly where Tracy is coming from. The one thing that I would disagree with is the comment that knowledge is not transactional (though the reference is in comparison to money), psychological contracts are good examples of a rebuttal to that comment and I would argue that the workplace is full of examples of transactions weighted by those types of contracts.

So, what do you think?

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