We have grown up in an era where knowledge was considered power. If you had the best marks in your class at school, then you must be smart. If colleagues come to me to get answers, then I must be important – and on and on.
This behavior has created “knowledge hoarders” – those who view individual knowledge as a personal source of power and influence. This might have been ok if you were vying for $1 million on the popular game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” or were a contestant on Jeopardy – but if you look at it from an organizational perspective, this goes against all entrepreneurial principles of using all available resources for the growth of the enterprise. If you were in retail, you would be looking at, “what is my inventory turnover.” if I were in manufacturing, I might be looking at, “what’s my raw material turnover” or “how quickly am I consuming and turning my resources into valuable assets.”
Why is this not true for knowledge? How often does your company reuse knowledge that was generated by you, aka “an asset?” We hire people into our organizations and train them for a period of time to make sure they are productive at some particular function. Yet there are still haves and have not’s when it comes to knowledge. I would be willing to bet that in most organizations, there are those people that are top performers in terms of reliability, knowledge and the ability to get the job done. On the other hand, there are those that seem to struggle to do the same tasks. We are very quick to make up excuses: “we did not train them enough” or “they need more hands-on experience,” for example.
It is only logical to believe that your organization would perform at a higher level if everyone has access to and reuses the best “collective” knowledge available, versus re-inventing the wheel every time they perform a repeatable task or even design a new process, a new product or a new way of going to market.
How do you do it? Organizations need to look at the content used by their top performers and ensure that this content is accessible and pushed to every other employee, rather than try to train every employee to gain this knowledge on their own. Part of making this content available is attaching it to “the experts” so that when others are using it, they know who to talk to for clarification or additional assistance. This connection between the experts and content will accelerate the overall knowledge of an organization very quickly. Now you’ll have an organization of high performers because they are connected to the relevant contextual knowledge they need to perform at high levels.
With the surge of interest today in knowledge management, it is clear that organizations are coming to this understanding. They know this is an opportunity to harvest and reuse collective knowledge; turning knowledge into an asset.
Does your organization have “knowledge hoarders?” Have you tried sharing their knowledge across your entire organization?