There’s no doubt about it: the developing knowledge sharing opportunity will be a critical success factor for professional services firms in the future.
No-one knows an organisation like the people who work within it. They know all its little secrets. The best methods to do everything. The experience which helps avoid mistakes. It’s the same at your organisation.
Your people know the parts of your organisation which work and the parts which don’t. They know the fastest ways to get things done and the pressure points which cut off outcomes. They have determined the parts which are easy to use and those which they dread working with. Your people know all the little short-cuts to bypass inefficiencies. They are refining internal processes to work more effectively, using trial-and-error to uncover the things which work best and have already innovating and adapting existing materials.
This isn’t a new phenomena – it’s been like this forever and it’s happening right now. This inside knowledge will continue to exist inside your organisation whether you do something about it or not!
What is changing, however, is that there are a number of forces combining to make the opportunity to share knowledge the defining issue for success in the future. Forces which suggest that you need to do something about it now.
Force One: Your staff are already conditioned to share and acquire knowledge
The internet has begun a fundamental change in our knowledge creation and sharing processes. It has made the transmission of ideas easy, low cost and instantaneous. Suddenly, people who couldn’t previously share their knowledge with others are be able to do so.
Indeed, we are conditioning ourselves to share….
- Through a Like button on Facebook, sharing a thought on Twitter or sharing a photo on Instagram.
- Commenting on an article or contributing to a blog.
- By writing new articles, maintaining Wikipedia or uploading a YouTube video we made.
The problem is that sharing is occurring in social environments, not business environments. The knowledge sharing opportunity is flourishing outside of your business, not within it.
Force Two: Staff are changing jobs more often causing knowledge leave your business faster
The days of 30-40 year careers at a single employer are passing. Because view a career as a series of steps and changes, they change employer more often. New employees are training up and then refining existing knowledge within a business…only to move to a new role and have all their accumulated knowledge go with them. The knowledge sharing opportunity is fleeting for each employee in your business!
In the meantime, significant existing, valuable business knowledge developed by existing employees lies latent and untapped within the business. Even in small teams – let alone large, distributed businesses – knowledge is isolated and exists in silos. Information can even be deliberately withheld because the power gained from retaining knowledge is greater than the reward for sharing knowledge.
Force Three: Success will increasingly lie in the rapid sharing of knowledge to create strategic advantages
Knowledge was once well contained within an organisation. As a result, an organisation could once have genuine proprietary knowledge. Now the internet and transient staff mean knowledge is being rapidly transferred between organisations. In many ways, organisations will lose many competitive advantages they might have enjoyed 20-30 years ago. So organisations risk becoming more similar, rather than more differentiated. This is already evident across many industries where organisations appear the same to both clients and staff.
The organisations of the future will have to look harder internally for what makes them different and better – those best practices of their top people – and rapidly share that knowledge to create a competitive advantage. Barriers to sharing, learning and contributing will be identified and removed. Great organisations of the future will internally cultivate employee knowledge and reward employees who share expertise. They will be able to act on their inside knowledge faster than competitors and utilize it as a strategic advantage.
Force Four: Knowledge sharing platforms are rapidly displacing the need for importing external knowledge
Historically, many organisations have relied on importing external knowledge – training courses and management consultants – into their organisations. This made sense when external knowledge was proprietary and there were no options to effectively share knowledge within a business. However, the content of many training courses and management consultants is now freely available through blogs, books, videos and webinars. It is no longer secret, or powerful.
External knowledge is also, at best, an approximation of a the required solution for each organisation. In fact, external knowledge providers often enter an organisation to teach knowledge that already exists somewhere within the organisation!
Technology has evolved. There are now new knowledge sharing platforms to capture and share knowledge. For example, cloud storage, social media, search capabilities, mobile employees, tablets/apps and more. The Tribal Habits platform is at the very centre of this technology. The role of external knowledge is diminishes now that access to inside knowledge is easier. Why use an approximate solution from outside, when an exact, proven solution lies inside?
A knowledge sharing opportunity is all yours
So your organisation faces…
- Staff increasingly used to sharing and acquiring knowledge in social settings
- Staff increasingly changing jobs and careers, taking acquired knowledge with them
- An environment where business are increasingly similar and harder to differentiate
- An increasing ability to utilise ‘inside knowledge’ as a strategic advantage
Your staff are increasingly ready to share and capture knowledge from each other if given the opportunity. It’s now up to your organisation to take advantage of these forces with your own knowledge sharing platform. Will you allow these forces to work together for the benefit of your organisation? Or will you resist them to the detriment of your organisation?