Note: This blog post is an adapted excerpt from our white paper “The Rise of Knowledge Engagement (And Why It Matters).” You can check out the full white paper here.
There’s no denying that knowledge has significant value to businesses. Every decision, interaction, and idea that drives a business forward stems from institutional knowledge and the intellect of its employees—in other words, the organization’s collective intelligence. And when teams have the means to tap into that collective intelligence, they’re able to take informed actions that positively impact revenue, retention, and innovation.
That ability to easily access and act on an organization’s collective intelligence is what we call knowledge engagement.
Knowledge engagement is the practice of proactively harnessing and building upon a core set of knowledge, empowering teams to tap into a collective source of intellect so that the value and utility of knowledge constantly grows.
So what does it look like when businesses put knowledge engagement into practice? Signs of an organization with a successful culture of knowledge engagement may include:
- Encouraging employees to share their ideas and expertise (and creating a psychologically safe space in which to share).
- Making all non-sensitive knowledge and insights available to all employees in one central, searchable location.
- Encouraging employees to publish questions, answers, and ideas where everyone can see them and benefit from the information.
- Providing opportunities for employees to collaborate across roles, teams, and departments.
- Making it as easy as possible for employees to document their knowledge in the format that makes the most sense to them.
Making Knowledge a Renewable Resource
Without knowledge engagement, knowledge is a finite resource for your business. Individual intellect lives in the minds of your employees, and institutional knowledge may be stored in repositories that aren’t accessible to everyone across the organization. Your organization can’t reap the full benefits of its collective intelligence, and existing knowledge erodes over time (most notably when employees leave the company and when time-sensitive documented knowledge becomes outdated).
Knowledge engagement is what turns knowledge into a renewable resource to power a business. When an organization builds a knowledge engagement culture, their employees are empowered at every level and in every role to leverage and contribute to existing knowledge. Contributors introduce new ideas and insights over time, allowing knowledge and intellect to continuously inform decisions.
Benefits of a Knowledge Engagement Culture
Grow Your Company’s Collective Intelligence
When organizations make it easy for employees to contribute, whether it’s by uploading a video or answering questions posted by their peers, people are more willing to share what they know. By removing points of friction and establishing a company culture where sharing and collaborating around knowledge is the norm, a company’s knowledge base will continue to grow over time. The more knowledge that is readily available in a searchable platform, the more likely employees will be to find the information they need, the moment they need it.
Make Knowledge Actionable
While having a large, instantly searchable knowledge base is a great start, a company’s collective intelligence isn’t valuable unless people are actively using knowledge and insights to make informed decisions. A culture of knowledge engagement encourages people to think critically about how to make their knowledge actionable for others and, conversely, how to act on the knowledge of their peers.
For instance, a market research team could share research reports with a list of recommended next steps for their stakeholders, or a sales representative could share a win story and encourage their peers to share their own win stories or relevant pain points. By increasing the application of existing knowledge, people increase the value of that knowledge to their organization.
Preserve Knowledge and Insights
About 10,000 people retire every day, and the average person changes jobs 12 times over the course of their career. Whether it’s due to retirement, changing jobs, or even a company-wide reorganization, there’s a risk of losing institutional and individual knowledge every time someone leaves their current role.
A culture of knowledge engagement, which encourages people to document and share what they know in the regular course of their work, helps to capture and preserve knowledge that might otherwise be lost or inaccessible. Capturing and centralizing the knowledge of employees can also simplify and streamline the onboarding process, giving new employees a go-to source to find the information they need more quickly to ramp up and do their best work.
Eliminate Knowledge Silos
94 percent of businesses say that agility and collaboration are essential to their success, but knowledge silos between teams, departments, and lines of business hinder cross-functional collaboration at many organizations. By centralizing and democratizing knowledge across their organizations, businesses can eliminate knowledge silos, provide greater visibility into what each team is working on, and provide a holistic view of the many moving pieces that contribute to the customer experience.
Innovation doesn’t spring forth from one person’s singular idea: it’s the result of people making connections between different pieces of information and collaborating to come up with something new. A culture of knowledge engagement sets employees and teams up to make those connections and new discoveries, no matter where they’re working or how their company is structured. By finding and applying the knowledge and insights of their peers, team members can better understand how their work fits into broader company goals and where there are opportunities to collaborate on innovative projects and ideas.
Making Knowledge Management Dynamic
With traditional knowledge management systems such as intranets and corporate wikis, knowledge is largely static. A team or individual is responsible for overseeing and updating their organization’s knowledge base, and if they don’t have the bandwidth to regularly update the system, information quickly becomes outdated and irrelevant.
In the modern workplace, a static knowledge management system is no longer enough to keep up with rapidly evolving institutional and individual knowledge. It’s time to adopt a knowledge engagement strategy and platform, empowering employees from across your organization to continually contribute to, act on, and grow your business’s collective intelligence.