Blog Post

Creating a Knowledge Sharing Culture

Posted to Gurteen Knowledge-Log by David Gurteen on 7 April 2003



Creating a Knowledge Sharing Culture
WeblogGurteen Knowledge Log
Posted DateMonday 7 April 2003 14:20 GDT
Posted ByDavid Gurteen
CategoriesChange; Collaboration; Knowledge Management; Knowledge Sharing; Organizational Culture; Personal Development; Personal Knowledge Management; Motivation

Some time ago, I wrote an e-mail to a Knowledge Manager in a large organization giving him some advise on how I thought he could help create a 'knowledge sharing culture' in his organization. I thought I'd share it.

I believe for KM to be successful that everyone must understand and buy-in to KM concepts and drive KM initiatives. If the CEO and senior management do this then to some degree it will be successful BUT EVERYONE in an organization is responsible for KM (some parallels here with Quality) and everyone in an organization needs to drive KM.

If senior management drive KM without support from the people then it will most likely die out - you cannot mandate that people share their knowledge or are more creative. And if it is solely driven from the bottom it may also fade out as people will feel they do not have the support they need. To my mind, KM should be driven from the bottom with strong support and encouragement from senior management.

You seem to already have senior management support, in the fact, that your unit has been set up. But if you limit yourself to drive a small number of initiatives, how ever successful, then I think KM is in danger of fizzling out.

I'd like to suggest that you galvanize the whole of the organization behind you and support people in potentially hundreds of small initiatives. In other words create a "grassroots KM movement".

By and large people are motivated to do well, to learn, to collaborate with each other and to get things done. Far too often, they opt out. They only "do their jobs". "It is not their problem." This mindset becomes so pervasive that they do not even realize they are doing it. If asked they will insist "they are doing a good job"; they are "doing what is asked of them".

I suggest you do not focus on just KM how ever you define it. Make the remit broad: the sharing and application of knowledge, learning, creativity, innovation and personal development and possibly more. I think people can understand these terms better and find them more motivating.

So the concept is simple, create a global KM community of people who instinctively "get" what KM is about. Educate them in KM, encourage and support them and turn them loose. Many KM initiatives can be implemented for little or no money - all that is needed is people's time and enthusiasm to do a good job or to do something creative. To me, KM, is more a mindset or an attitude to work then anything else.

Initially do not worry trying to convert people who "just don't get it" - many will eventually "get it" when they see the success of others and more will start to understand KM in time but many will never "get it" at all.

So the outline of my idea is this.

  • Create a community. People have to apply to join. Absolutely anyone can join. No one is turned away.
  • Publish a monthly electronic newsletter to support them. Let people write for it. Publish ideas, new initiatives and success stories. Publish internal and external events. Publish short book reviews, inspirational quotations etc.
  • Encourage people to take initiatives. Encourage them to talk - to give presentations at lunch time or early evenings if they cannot get time during the day.
  • Set up a support desk to help people. Nothing elaborate - a phone no. or e-mail address will do.
  • Run internal talks/seminars/conferences on KM to educate people about KM. Make these events highly interactive.
  • Give lunch time and early evening talks.
  • Run knowledge-cafés
  • Set up a community website to support them.
You may have noticed a parallel here. I am doing exactly the above with my website, newsletter and the talks I give at conferences etc. What I am suggesting is that you take these concepts and adapt and apply them internally.

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
David Gurteen

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