Team Knowledge Building & Sharing

Team Knowledge Building and Sharing

– Tools and Methods 

How to build collaborative knowledge has been a concern ever since the first group of Homo erectus decided to hunt together.  In this article, we’ll jump ahead a couple of million years and look at how today’s teams achieve efficient knowledge building

Wolf-packs have extraordinary organizational skills when moving through their habitat. Birds display unique self-organization abilities when migrating. This tells us that both through human history and the animal kingdom knowledge sharing is a decidedly social process. 

The wolf-pack and a flock of birds can teach us about the importance of intuitive learning. The wolf and the bird do not form committees to decide on which paths to take, what skill sets are needed, and what roles should be assigned to achieve a mission.

Silent, individual contemplation has its place in a knowledge-building process, but when knowledge is shared in a social setting that is when this process, within a team, really can take flight!

How to develop a learning culture within your team

What is innate for animals or learned through flock behavior represents a complex challenge for organizations. We must ask how to get everyone to “fly in the right direction” while being able to make an individual contribution. This is closely related to how to manage tacit knowledge optimally. 

Tacit knowledge is basically unspoken and unwritten – the knowledge individuals accumulate based on observations, intuition, and internalized information. We strongly believe we can take a page out of the animals’ “book of knowledge” and learn socially, in a way that better taps into tacit knowledge than more traditional learning methods.

Studies show that tacit knowledge is a cornerstone in knowledge management in innovative companies, and “has a crucial influence on the success of innovation processes in companies and plays a vital role as a company resource and success factor. “ (The use of tacit knowledge within innovative companies: knowledge management in innovative enterprises by Ragna Seidler-de Alwis and Evi Hartmann).

Why social knowledge sharing

In any organization, information has to make the transition into knowledge. This doesn’t happen before individuals contribute a context and interpretations of information. We make the argument that social knowledge sharing is the most efficient way for this transition to happen.

As teamwork becomes increasingly virtual, choosing the right digital tools and the right methods become even more essential. One of the things lost in the virtual world is the “watercooler conversation” – the informal chats that function as “accidental conductors” of information as well as a “social glue” between coworkers.

The more informal aspect of company dialogue needs to have a place also in a remote work environment. Having a social Intranet with digital communication apps is the strategy of choice for the modern organization to manage enterprise knowledge and to promote innovation on all levels. 

  • Reduce e-mailing. Instead of emailing back and forth with co-workers to get the latest updates, there are dedicated news feeds with the latest information and the possibility to shoot a quick chat message to a colleague.
  • Faster knowledge dissemination. Knowledge has many more channels to spread through if an organization uses a social Intranet; news feeds, blogs, etc.
  • Individual competence building. – Every employee has the tools to take personal competence development much more into her own hands, using digital tools (like a corporate wiki, using digital workspaces and accessing chats to refresh information).
  • Communal, organic knowledge building. – When employees can self-educate as well as participate in joint learning processes, on several levels, not only does knowledge “stick” better, the company competence building effort is more organic, gains more momentum, and is more effortless.

Options: Hivebrite, Yammer (part of Office365), Aptien, Blink, and many more. 

Other Tools for Knowledge Management:

Corporate Wiki –  a communal knowledge base for the whole organization. A corporate wiki functions as a digital encyclopedia that is developed by all employees, linking up important content.

Corporate Blog – an internal blog is an excellent tool for specialty knowledge sharing, for teams and individuals. This can be integrated with a social intranet.

Internal News – An internal news feed makes sure that everyone is updated on information,  both company-wide, as well as for targeted individuals.

Digital Whiteboards – Digital tools like Miro are great for, literally, sketching out ideas in a team setting.

Some tips for knowledge transfer in teams

Having the right tools makes knowledge sharing a whole lot easier, but the right practices are certainly no less important. Here are some ideas on how to fluidly disseminate information:

  • Knowledge Transfer Plan – Devise a plan for how to transfer knowledge between individuals. Unlike the wolves and the birds whose “plans” are encoded in their DNA, we humans need to brainstorm and write out plans.
  • Subject Leaders – Having a social intranet or corporate blog is great, but if there’s little to no engagement and movement of info, there will be no impact either. This should be a “free sharing zone” for all employees, but delegating responsibility to “subject leaders” who are responsible for following up on their designated subject will get things rolling. A “subject” could be departmental info, market trend news, global economic trends, etc. Basically, anything relevant for the company.
  • Stand-up – A term familiar to those who work with agile methodology, a “stand-up” is a daily meeting involving a core team on a project. However, if it makes sense, there’s no reason why this can’t be implemented for the whole company. Especially in smaller companies, this is a useful way to keep updated on what everyone else is doing and learning across departments. 
  • Eliminate “tribe-talk” – The IT team, the marketing team, etc. all have their lingo that only their “tribe” gets. The various teams should make an effort to substitute this with “plain-talk” – vocabulary that everyone can understand.

This is not a comprehensive guide to how to handle knowledge building and sharing in teams, the subject is a vast one. We have tried to share some ideas and tools that are useful whether working completely on remote, or “up close and personal.”

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