7 Steps to Creating a Knowledge Sharing Culture
Knowledge sharing is an essential part of doing business. Management, employees and customers must all communicate with one another and share information. This is so basic, that it seems like the one thing entrepreneurs and start-up founders can cross off their lists – this should be happening anyway, so why worry about it. But ignoring this issue, and not actively working to foster a knowledge sharing culture could be a costly mistake for any business. If you aren’t thinking about this at all, now may be the time to initiate a formal organized knowledge management system in your company.
Still, we see a common problem in the companies we work with – often, knowledge management processes, CRM systems, and other document repositories are established – only to be ignore and half-used. This results in a terrible cycle where management feels like the systems are useless and the investments in them wasted. In reality, there are a number of powerful tools out there that can help grow and improve your business – but they are only as good as the information, or “knowledge” that gets put into them.
So how can entrepreneurial managers build a knowledge sharing culture from the ground up? Read on to learn best practices for actively promoting the culture of knowledge sharing across your organization.
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#1 Lead by Example
This one is a no-brainer. Be open and transparent in your communications. Use the tools you are asking the rest of the company to use. And ensure staff throughout the organization know that you value and expect knowledge sharing.
#2 Show Them How
Some people just instinctively “get” knowledge sharing – find the ones in your organization who do, and empower them as role models. Elevate their status, allow them to help identify the tools and processes for knowledge sharing, and motivate them to motivate their peers. Once you identify these knowledge sharing rockstars as experts in a critical part of your company culture, you give them the opportunity to teach others.
#3 Motivate People To Share Knowledge – and #4 Celebrate Mistakes
Showing them how to share knowledge is one thing – motivating them to do so is very different. Implement incentives for sharing knowledge. One company we work with gives an award for “Mistake of the Week” – the employee who made a mistake that taught them and the company something valuable receives a gift card to a local business. The management has made this weekly award, which is given out a an all staff meeting every Friday, a badge of honor and colleagues nominate one another and feel good about it. Because management has (a) made it OK to make mistakes, and (b) motivated the team to talk about those mistakes, staff is much more open and communicative about everything they do – including mistakes!
There are many other ways to incentivize knowledge sharing. Find the ones that work for your company and implement them as soon as possible.
#5 Eliminate Fear
Most often, we see fear as a key barrier to knowledge sharing. Employees don’t want others to steal their ideas, or replace them. Luckily, a positive corporate culture can change this situation. Reward people for sharing knowledge, and reward others for using it responsibly. If you remove the fear of making mistakes, losing your job, or someone else trying to take credit for others’ ideas, you remove objections to knowledge sharing.
#6 Make Knowledge Sharing A Job Requirement
List knowledge sharing in every job description. Build it into your processes. Make sure everyone knows that it isn’t “another task” to add to their plate, but a critical part of their job. Ideally, it should be addressed in every annual review, and discussed often in meetings.
#7 Choose Technology That Works
Technology has transformed the way people communicate and collaborate, thus the way they do business. In start-up and entrepreneurial organizations, managers have an opportunity to build a knowledge sharing process using technologies that are familiar to teams, and easy to use. Remember – choose the technology based on how you work, not on features and functions.
Online chats, wikis, internal blogs, or project management tools can facilitate communication and information exchange across organizational and geographical boundaries but only if they are chosen appropriately and staff is trained on their use. And remember, even something as simple as Google Drive can help foster collaboration and sharing. Just make sure you’ve got processes, training and motivators in place.
Why Sharing Knowledge Is Important
Learning, growing and sharing information is essential to your company’s survival. Continuous innovation is required to fuel continuous growth and forward progress and that innovation will be fueled by knowledge – and collaboration among your team. My fostering a culture that rewards knowledge sharing, providing tools, and leading my example, entrepreneurial managers, founders, and leaders can ensure their organization is built for knowledge sharing – and growth!
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