Knowledge sharing: building a competitive advantage
An investment in knowledge pays the best interestBenjamin Franklin
Digital transformation has brought with it a range of new tools, creating widespread organisational change and a greater sense of freedom for employees. Although the implementation of these digital tools has been relatively fast, the cultural change brought around by their use has not followed so quickly.
The speed of innovation has led to a wide variety of different tools, making it difficult for all to have clear governance and clearly defined good practices. This has resulted in organisations demanding too much of users, by offering multiple platforms with conflicting strategies, which can sadly lead to a loss of knowledge.
When choosing a knowledge sharing tool for your organisation and building support for the change, you must consider your employees directly, and the human impact of your choices. Therefore, beyond calculating a tool’s direct return on investment, you must also consider the less tangible value of intellectual capital.
Create a culture of knowledge sharing to increase productivity
Establishing a culture of knowledge sharing in your organisation means facilitating and promoting good practices for sharing information. To achieve this, you’ll need to:
- Identify the different communication channels available, both digital and non-digital, keeping in mind the objectives you’d like to achieve.
- Organise your information flow, whether top-down or bottom-up, formal or informal, according to your targets and needs.
- Contextualise knowledge in ecosystems to encourage dialogue and collaboration.
Provide the right tools for your employees according to their needs.
Sharing information for the benefit of everyone allows for greater efficiency and responsiveness. The knowledge present in your company can be valuable, independently of who shared it, and who it is beneficial for, which allows for free access. This means that your organisation can immediately optimise time, with employees no longer wasting time on searching for information or in training. This gives everyone the freedom to do what they do best, their job.
By identifying a single point of reference, with a collaborative and dynamic approach to knowledge, you can establish a system of continuous and autonomous improvement, thanks to feedback exchange. Experts can become moderators, now only needing to share their knowledge once for the benefit of everyone.
Empowering knowledge sharing enables maintenance of your employees’ knowledge and an accountability with the way they share information. This culture of knowledge sharing will encourage higher levels of commitment from employees in order to achieve their objectives and those of the company.
Choose the right tools to capitalise on knowledge
Digital transformation is pushing companies to reorganise. Structures that were previously vertical are becoming horizontal, with digital tools becoming more and more cross-functional, leading them to require clearer IT governance.
Generic tools vs. specific tools
Tools used to be much more specific, with a focus on a particular function, whereas now we tend more and more to opt for tools based on their usage. Their cross-functionality makes it possible to avoid the loss of content, promote interdepartmental collaboration and capitalise on knowledge.
While collaboration is part of a knowledge sharing culture, the tools that facilitate it are not project management tools. The published content is intended to be found and reused, which allows it to be capitalised on.
Emotional content vs. practical content
Knowledge sharing tools are inspired by the software and apps we use everyday in our personal lives, both in their design and in the features they offer, which greatly facilitates employee adoption.
Social interfaces encourage sharing and collaboration by introducing familiar elements from social media and help create an intuitive design. However fun they are to use, these tools are professional tools that must meet productivity and profitability objectives first and foremost. Codifying their use helps to preserve their efficiency and durability.
Tree vs. matrix structuring of content
While the traditional hierarchical tree lends itself perfectly to highly technical and non-collaborative content, it becomes unmanageable when dealing with the thousands of pieces of internal and external content which have been created collaboratively. In this case, it’s more practical to structure the knowledge base by topic, along with a set of search capabilities, using tags and full-text indexing.
The capitalisation of knowledge, a competitive advantage
Given the speed with which customer expectations and the competitive landscape are changing, being able to deliver the right information to the right person at the right time is now more critical than ever. An effective knowledge management strategy enables a culture of agility and continuous improvement, putting the company at the forefront of trends and innovation. This ensures that it can stay one step ahead of its competitors by anticipating the expectations of its customers.
However, the true competitive advantage of knowledge sharing remains with your employees. Managing knowledge means you must also manage and value talent, encouraging autonomy and accountability across a more horizontal organisation, to help foster retention.