The Basic Principle Behind Successful Knowledge Sharing
Most information in organisations (or brand communities) is shared from the perspective of the creator, not the recipient.
The creator publishes an article about a topic s/he finds interesting. The timing, length, format, and target audience (everyone) all suit the creator. Which is exactly why it’s soon forgotten by the target audience.
Successful knowledge sharing efforts provide the right people with the specific information they need at the exact moment they need it in the format that suits them.
This usually means every team member needs to know:
- What information to share. If we’re working on writing a new consultancy report, it would be useful to have examples of previous reports. Which means we need to share this report when it’s complete. Any time we regret not having a template to work from, we need to share the template we’re creating. Equally important is to share only the essential information. Too much information becomes unwieldly and demotivating to sift through. This also means pruning the information which is never used.
- When to share this information. Too often information is shared once it’s been created instead of when it’s needed. A document shared too early is rarely recalled and used. We need to embed the document within a process by which it’s delivered to the receiver when s/he needs it. A checklist with links to relevant, updated, documents works well here.
- With whom to share this information. At the United Nations we used to receive ‘Addendum to Addendum 3.2’ messages containing entirely irrelevant information to the projects we were working on at that moment. These emails mattered a lot to a small number of people. Finding those people is hard.
- How to share this information. Slack might be a great tool for deliberation, triggering processes or fixing gaps in the process, but it’s not the best tool for sharing useful information (neither is email). PDFs, white papers, video training classes, workshops, books, podcasts, guest speakers can be equally useful tools.
- Why they share information. More information is lost to apathy than retirement. People simply aren’t motivated to share what they need. Either they aren’t personally motivated (belief in the group mission, desire to help, finds the topic interesting) or professionally rewarded (recognition, promotion, salary increases) to share what they have discovered.
Too many discussions begin by asking the creators what they want, they should begin by asking the recipients what they need.