Knowledge Business
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Why People Fail to Share Knowledge    [Date Added : 11/14/2017 ]
Effective knowledge sharing is the lifeblood to knowledge-based organizations. High-performing organizations are ones that have mastered the art of empowering their newer employees with the knowledge and experience of the more-tenured.

There are three primary reasons people do not share their knowledge, especially in the context of tacit knowledge capture in online KM Systems like communities of practice, micro-blogs, and threaded discussions:

1. Lack of Priority: If an organization does not stress the value and importance of sharing knowledge, enterprise knowledge sharing cannot be woven into the fabric of the institution.

2. Worry About Being Replaced: Individuals often are uninterested in knowledge sharing because they want to be the person with the answers. For them, empowering others with that knowledge means they are less essential to the organization. This often occurs in highly competitive organizations or functions and industries already experiencing high turnover.

3. Fear of Getting in Trouble: In more heavily regulated organizations, individuals often have it drilled into them that anything digital is discoverable in court. This can sometimes lead to a negative loop, where individuals avoid documenting their knowledge. Even in less heavily regulated organizations, certain organizational cultures punish the 'squeaky wheel' and instead encourage their employees to keep their heads down and get the job done the way it has always been done.

Though developing and sustaining a culture of knowledge sharing in your organization requires a broad array of techniques and tools, there are several keys that I find to be critical to overall success.

- Start at the Top: Knowledge sharing culture, like most organizational culture change, starts at the top. The leaders of an organization can invigorate or kill a knowledge sharing initiative based on the support they give it and whether they themselves use it.

- Reward and Honor Knowledge Sharing: Organizations that are the most effective at knowledge sharing are those that treat their experts like rock stars. The holders of knowledge should be rewarded not just for having it, but for sharing it.

- Protect Your Knowledge Sharers: Ensure you have established appropriate governance, workflows, and training for knowledge sharing. Depending on the industry and framework of your organization, you need to protect your employees by putting the appropriate controls in place so they leverage their knowledge sharing tools in the ways for which they are intended.

- Think About Email: People use email because it is easy, familiar and fast. When you are designing your future knowledge sharing systems and processes, recognize that it takes no more than 45 seconds to send an email with an attachment. Design your knowledge sharing system to allow someone to share in 45 seconds or less. That means sacrificing some level of granularity for the overall usability, but the level of participation will increase as the barrier to entry decreases.

- Provide Context: Knowledge sharing systems without context quickly stagnate. Knowledge sharing formats, especially at first, work best with more specific topics and context from day one. The fastest buy-in for knowledge sharing tools happen when the conversation has already begun.

- Seed Your Content: A critical step in the design and deployment of a knowledge sharing system is mapping "Eaters" and "Feeders" in the organization (those who will primarily consume content, and those who will primarily supply content). Recognize, too, that a "Feeder" on one topic is a potential "Eater" on another. Prior to rolling out a new tool, make sure you have enlisted a key number of your "Feeders" to begin conversations and use these tools in order that, by the time the "Eaters" get to see it, and there is something for them to consume.

- Communication Goes Both Ways: As with any KM initiative, two-way communications are critical for success. Help your users understand the importance and value of knowledge sharing, but also continuously seek their guidance and feedback on how to make it easier and better for them. If you have got a knowledge sharing tool or are planning on rolling one out, create a specific forum for ideas on how to improve the tool!

("Why People Fail to Share Knowledge," by Zack Wahl,, November 2, 2017. Copyright 2016 Transmit Media)
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