Even though knowledge sharing is critical to organizational success, it does not occur naturally. The leaders of your organization have a massive impact on your employee’s willingness to share valuable information with their peers. It’s not uncommon for some leaders to move away from, or even discourage, a collaborative environment. This comes in many different forms, such as withholding company knowledge, never seeking the opinions and ideas of their direct reports, or only seeking input on decisions that have already been made.
The good news? It doesn’t have to be this way. However, it is up to your leadership team to lead by example. Many of you reading this are probably thinking, “that’s easier said than done.” This is why we’ve put together these six quick tips your organization’s leadership team can follow to help encourage knowledge sharing and collaboration within your organization.
1. Encourage Free Thinking
Employees will not feel comfortable sharing knowledge and ideas if they fear that thinking outside the box, taking risks, and being different will get them ridiculed and dismissed in your next team meeting. Your team is full of diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences, so explicitly encourage unusual ways of thinking, and reassure employees that they will not be punished for taking risks. Set an example by doing so yourself.
2. Provide Constant Opportunities for Knowledge Sharing
The word is out… meetings just don’t cut it anymore. Your employees are too smart, dynamic, and fast-paced to limit their knowledge sharing to physical meetings. After all, doesn’t the overwhelming majority of thought and learning occur outside of meetings? If your employees’ only opportunity to collaborate is one hour each week in a stuffy conference room, valuable information will be forgotten, lost, and overlooked.
Utilize resources like HipChat, Slack, Google Hangouts, or a knowledge sharing platform to keep your team in constant communication. If your team has an easy and accessible way to share knowledge acquired in real time, they are much more likely to do so.
3. Encourage Knowledge Sharing by Building Trust
When leadership assigns the same tasks to the same people all the time, employees who are not given influence in those domains will begin to feel powerless, as though they are not trusted to make an impact within the organization. This can cause knowledge hoarding, resentment, and a toxic workplace environment to build within your team.
By evenly distributing important tasks among your employees, they will gain a larger sense of personal responsibility. And responsibility and reliance help build autonomy and purpose. In fact, an employees belief about how much their supervisor relies on and trusts them has a direct impact on their willingness to share ideas.
4. Create a Space for Knowledge Sharing
There’s something to be said for feng shui. We’re not advocating for you drop into lotus pose, start wearing yoga pants, and bring an organic jug of kombucha to work (unless you’re into that) but a little rearrangement and decoration in the office will go a long way to encourage knowledge sharing and collaboration.
Desks isolated within cubicles in a dark, fluorescent office building are a sure-fire way to stop the free flow of conversation and ideas. Consider investing in large desks without dividers and spacing those desks evenly throughout the office as opposed to shoved into corners and long walls. If you don’t have the budget to re-organize your office, even purchasing lamps that create warmer lighting or setting up “conversation stations” with couches or comfortable chairs will facilitate impromptu knowledge sharing.
5. Lead by Example
Leaders within your organization who evangelize knowledge sharing but lack transparency themselves can be seen as hypocritical. As leaders, make sure you always exercise an open door policy. Literally… leave your door open. Let your employees know again and again that they can always speak to you about anything. Answer their questions honestly and make sure they know where they stand.
6. Recognize Individual Ideas
Lastly, when leaders should look for opportunities to recognize team members when they have good ideas and openly share knowledge. When leaders treat ideas as valuable, employees will be more likely to continue to share ideas freely.
Fostering collaboration and working to encourage knowledge sharing in your organization allows for the day-to-day operations to run more efficiently, for brilliant ideas to be shared more frequently, and for productivity to increase.Your organization will also grow a sense of comradery and accountability as your employees inspire each other to work their hardest, all for the benefit of everyone involved. As leaders in your company, follow these six best practices to ensure that knowledge flows freely and generously.