If you have a knowledge sharing platform and strategy in place, you’ve likely already begun to see results in the form of increased efficiencies and improvements in company-wide productivity. But are you are using your knowledge sharing capabilities to their full potential?
In a perfect world, all of your company information, experience, and expertise would work together in a knowledge sharing strategy that creates a powerful and empowering ecosystem of information. Your employees would share information as it becomes available and your teams would support each other and communicate continuously, without prompting. Departments would collaborate instead of existing in non-communicative silos.
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. While having a knowledge sharing strategy and knowledge sharing platform in place helps to eliminate knowledge hierarchies and information hoarding, your success is dependent on your knowledge advocates—the individuals who can empower and enable the rest of your organization.
Who Are Your Knowledge Sharing Advocates?
Whether you are implementing a knowledge sharing platform for the first time or have been using the same software for years, it is important to recognize that your advocates aren’t necessarily the few people who recommended the system in the first place. Of course, there will be a go-to team of experts who have established authority, but the best way to scale your knowledge sharing initiative is to crowdsource expertise. That is, find the existing super users, regardless of their position within the organization.
These people should not be hard to find — they are the ones sharing their ideas, pointing out issues with existing content and processes, and collaborating with anyone who will participate. They are creating and distributing their own materials and making an effort to share any company information by any means necessary. Most importantly, your knowledge sharing advocates are the ones who will embrace a knowledge sharing strategy wholeheartedly and encourage their peers to do the same.
That said, advocacy doesn’t just require a loud voice, but a credible one. Look for the people who are asking questions, and answering them willingly and intelligently, as well as those who might be considered walking encyclopedias of company information. As your credible advocates demonstrate the value of knowledge to the rest of your employees, your team of knowledge sharing advocates will grow organically.
Organize And Motivate Your Knowledge Sharing Advocates
Once you have identified your advocates, you need to empower and motivate them to share their passion for knowledge sharing with the rest of your team. You already know that they understand the need for knowledge sharing, but make sure they have the tools and guidelines to get everyone else on board in a cohesive way.
Start by clearly communicating the vision and goals for your knowledge sharing strategy:
- How will knowledge sharing benefit the company as a whole?
- How will knowledge sharing make their lives easier?
- Are there topics that need to be approved before being shared? What does that process look like?
- Do you have basic knowledge sharing standards?
Your strategy shouldn’t need too many rules and guidelines, but having a few in place that are communicated consistently will see the best results. But how do you get them to start sharing these guidelines? Simple motivation.
The first step is showcasing model behavior. People in positions of authority need to be as excited about knowledge sharing as your advocates are. While they are sharing content and promoting a knowledge sharing culture, you need to be sure that you are taking their messages to the rest of the team to heart and advocate for them. Recognize their efforts early and often — praise great content, establish a rewards system, and socialize the impact of knowledge sharing has on the rest of the team’s ability to do their jobs.
Trust Your Team
Having a team of knowledge sharing advocates on your side is the first step to getting a successful strategy off the ground, but the most important part of successful knowledge exchange is trust. A person who feels trusted, and in turn becomes trusting, will actively exchange knowledge, accept influence, and collaborate openly. In comparison, if there is any feeling of a lack of trust, the messages you are trying to promote will be lost as they conceal information, reject influence, and refuse to take ownership of the task at hand.
When your knowledge sharing advocates feel like their leadership team is trusting them to promote such an important initiative in your organization, they are more apt to provide accurate, relevant, and complete information to their peers. In turn, the rest of your team will recognize the trust put in these advocates, and reciprocate by sharing their own expertise and knowledge, and participate in building your knowledge base, and embrace a new way of thinking within your organization.
Watch Your Knowledge Sharing Strategy Grow
Those early knowledge sharing advocates are the critical stepping stones to establishing a culture of information sharing within your organization but don’t stop there. If they are effective, advocacy is going to grow exponentially. Continue to watch for and enable advocates as your strategy starts to evolve.
Evolving your knowledge strategy is a large task, one that can’t be completed by leadership alone. It is more intricate than just one initiative; it is something that will continue to grow and change as you garner more buy-in and your advocates and employees find new ways to use your knowledge sharing platform. Take advantage of the huge amount of talent and experience within your organization to break out of the old ways and demolish the silos that are holding your company back, and watch your knowledge sharing revolution take shape.