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The History of Knowledge Sharing

Written by Rachel Alexander

The concept of knowledge sharing isn’t new, but how we communicate information is. Whereas we once focused on simply sharing knowledge, leaving it up to ancestors and academics to catalog, organize, and interpret such materials, we now understand its essential role for businesses and organizations to remain competitive in the global marketplace.

As networked computers made it possible to store and share knowledge more easily than any other period in history, business leaders have started to recognize the value of knowledge and how capturing and sharing it could impact their business. The value for companies and organizations is vast, from increasing efficiency to eliminating redundancy, but the benefits and applications are still being realized as technologies improve.

The Evolution of Knowledge Sharing

The Beginning of Knowledge Sharing

One of the earliest known iterations of knowledge sharing took the form of cave drawings in 15,000 BC. From there, documentation became more sophisticated, evolving from imagery to alphabets, and from walls to scrolls. Monks and academics took on the role of transcribing books and organizing encyclopedias, storing knowledge away in exclusive libraries. The invention of the printing press in 1440 was the first time information was easily distributed via print material. It wasn’t until over 400 years later that libraries were available to the general public.

Sharing Information in the 20th Century

The 1900s saw incredibly rapid changes in knowledge sharing, starting with real-time radio broadcasting at the beginning of the century and then culminating with the invention of the internet in the 1980s. As information grew more and more accessible, it was harder to imagine functioning without the technologies enabling this new level of connectivity. It quickly became clear that a means for managing this excess, albeit incredibly useful, information was greatly needed.

Research shows that consultants were amongst the first professionals to seriously explore and consider the best means of sharing knowledge. Some consulting companies relied on key players to manage and share knowledge via person-to-person interactions, whereas other organizations turned to computers to codify and store information in databases. Using computers allowed them to communicate knowledge rather than simply store it. As companies grew and technology improved, one lesson had been made clear: the death of knowledge is to isolate it.

The Current State of Knowledge Sharing

Today, many businesses are still figuring out the best solutions for managing knowledge to leverage its full potential. A number of free and paid applications and platforms exist to store and share knowledge, some focusing on specific types of knowledge (i.e. password vaults and photo libraries) and others maintaining more broad applications (i.e. Dropbox and Evernote).

While there are countless platforms to store and share knowledge, finding ones that are highly searchable is rare. Without the ability to easily search, knowledge inevitably gets lost. Duplicate content is eventually created, and often produces a lack of consistency amongst the stored data. What is presented as a solution for clutter often proves oversimplified.

4 Factors Driving the Present and Future of Knowledge Sharing

1. Deep Indexing for Optimal Search Capabilities

The biggest factor driving the development of knowledge sharing is search. The ability to type in a couple keywords and receive relevant results makes it easy to find not just a specific piece of content, but other similar, related content, too. While this is great for written documents, technology now exists that allows a deep search within videos and PDFs, making search even more powerful.

2. Artificial Intelligence for More Personalized Experiences

Artificial intelligence is driving the next wave of personalization enhancements to knowledge sharing platforms. AI can be used to establish contextual similarities between documents and to serve users relevant content suggestions. AI also combs through uploaded content to identify relevant tags and then pin those tags to content, making documents 50% more findable.

Bloomfire COO Mark Hammer believes that the future of knowledge sharing platforms is incumbent on the continued integration of artificial intelligence. Without AI, database content loses context. Not only does such technology make content more searchable, but it can also be programmed to push relevant content to the appropriate people at the right time. To do so, search engines will need AI engines that personalize information based on interests and recognizable patterns.

Through a combination of ranking algorithms and identifying contextually similar content, AI addresses a wide variety of applications.

3. Collaborative Capabilities Providing Context for Content

Interacting with, rather than simply viewing, content provides context and helps deepen understanding. When users can interact with content by writing comments, posing questions, and “liking” documents, technology can spur collaboration.

“My ability to see what questions are being posted on the platform, and the comments and follows to the content, has greatly enhanced my ability to see what’s going on in the organization,” said Hammer. “Seeing the content posted is one thing, but Bloomfire gives me that ability to see our walls being knocked down. I ask myself, are there things not being addressed? Why not, and who’s responsible? Do we have a gap in coverage?”

4. Customer Centricity Requires Knowledge Sharing

Understanding your customers is one of the most valuable investments a business can make. However, it’s the actions and strategies impacted that really make the investment worthwhile. Yet organizations often run into obstacles when managing and sharing research, diminishing its impact. According to Forrester, only 49% of business decisions are made using qualitative data, as opposed to opinions or gut feelings.

Often departmental or technological silos exist between business units that prevent information from flowing between the knowledge holders, in most cases the insights team, to the business leaders, marketers, innovation teams, brand teams, and others who need it.

Knowledge sharing platforms provide a simple way for others to access high-level details from reports, leading to knowledgeable decisions on what actions in specific markets would prove beneficial.

Knowledge Sharing as a Corporate Priority

Though advances in technology have their advantages, they also created new obstacles worth considering. The more information you have, the more critical collaboration and knowledge sharing are. Without proper communication, employees and employers alike are left only knowing what information is right in front of them. This puts businesses at a major disadvantage.

Imagine if you could take a deeper look at the functionality of each department, finding areas for improvements, gaps to fill, and opportunities for cross-department collaboration. Think about how much easier and faster it would be to complete a task if you could find the exact information they needed when you needed it most, and how useful it would prove if the relevant information presented itself to the person who would benefit from it most. This need is driving knowledge sharing. Knowledge sharing platforms provide tools and technologies propelling corporations, permitting healthy growth, collaboration, and efficiency.

Harness The Power Of Knowledge Sharing With Digital Transformation

Companies that grasp what the digital workplace is really all about are willing to change the ways people and applications connect across their organizations. By fostering a digitally driven culture of collaboration, they break down silos, share knowledge more effectively, and compete more successfully.

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