The transmission and management of knowledge is an age-old concept that has developed as technologies have advanced. Some 15 years ago, before the Internet was a widespread phenomenon, Knowledge Management was the centralisation, storage and tagging of information to make it more easily accessible.
Today, in the era of social networking and all that is digital, Knowledge Management means implementing good working practices, finding solid technical solutions and fostering the right atmosphere – all so as to enable the collective brain power of an organisation to function at its best.
The Post-industrial Era
The Industrial Revolution of the last century transformed the concept of Work. From craftsmanship to industry, work became codified, repetitive and standardised. Mass production, increased productivity via the division of labour, the predictability of the market economy: these were the ideas that dominated and prevailed.
Now, the concept of Work has once again been transformed, this time by the digital revolution. Today, what we may have lost in predictability we have gained in digital tools and new ways of working. Digital technology is everywhere; it is transforming all working sectors and requires the utmost adaptability on the part of organisations.
We are moving from an industrial economy to an economy based on knowledge and networks, where Data reigns supreme. Companies must adapt and align themselves each day. The mass of new knowledge acquired daily has never been so huge.
In this new era, knowledge and areas of expertise are multiplying and increasing exponentially. So, knowledge has never been so valuable for day-to-day working practices and tasks. Every day, every hour, we’re constantly looking for the new right bit of information, or the right expert – that person who can help me to find the solution to my problem.
All organisations, and especially companies, need to take the necessary steps to ensure that knowledge circulates internally as it does externally, making this knowledge reactive to the frequent market transformations. It is here that Knowledge Management really comes into its own, and guarantees an excellent level of productivity.
What does Knowledge Management mean today?
Knowledge Management is above all an approach, a series of practices and the tools put in place to give each and every team member better access to an organisation's knowledge. But it also eliminates the risk of knowledge getting lost when a team member leaves or retires, or when data is stolen for example.
For an employee, having access to the right piece of information means better decision-making on his or her part, but it also has a positive effect on the decisions taken by other employees. The end result is that the organisation as a whole can make better, and faster, decisions.
These practices are at the crossroads between the management of human resources and inter-personnel relations on the one hand, and the digital tools linked to data storage capacity, access to information and notifications on the other.
In order to achieve this objective, knowledge must circulate; the experts in a given field must be identified; there must be strong communication between them and these same experts must also be willing to share their knowledge. An essential prerequisite to the practice of sharing is the principle of trust among its participants. Without trust, the concepts of interaction and sharing cannot be digitised.
Trust as the bandwidth for all communication
Trust, with a capital 'T', is by its very nature difficult to instil. It is not enough just to say it. Trust must be put into practice every day, and comes into being in the long term.
It is the multiplicity of human interactions, both physical and digital, and in the long-term, which enable a climate of confidence to emerge.
When there are multiple, strong, social connections, there is greater opportunity for reciprocity; for the flow of information; for collective action; for increased happiness and the (serendipitous) result of all this is increased trust. The economy of knowledge – and of sharing – is also the economy of trust. Trust is an important vehicle in the creation of values and ultimately, the creation of wealth.
The primary cornerstone of trust is the attitude of the individual, multiplied by as many people. It is this that will be at the core of the knowledge and ethos of a company. It can start with a simple attitude: "saying what we do and doing what we say", circulating the good news along with the bad, maintaining a positive attitude without becoming complacent, going to the heart of problems without worrying about the reactions....
The organisation of a company also plays an important role in the circulation of knowledge. This means eliminating all bureaucracy, abandoning practices of micromanagement and working towards a system of organisation that is a flat as possible.
Looking beyond the behaviour of the individual and the implementation of a good system of organisation, the use of digital, web and mobile applications can help create transparency in day-to-day work, which is so vital to the creation of trust. A solution such as Azendoo enables an organisation to clearly display its work, breathing life into the concepts of transparency, synchronisation and efficiency in an organisation that has little hierarchy and thus fosters creativity.
A Brand of Trust
Trust does not just concern the individual. It also affects relations between the individual and company, and its brands. A climate of trust must also be instilled with the wider company including clients, partners, service providers, and shareholders. It is here that the power of your brand will really come in to play. The same goes for institutions such as local authorities or the State.
Once a minimum of trust has been established, it is possible to put into place a collaborative approach, both internally and externally.
Collaboration, or how to circulate knowledge
Collaborative working has many virtues. It results in an organisation that is prepared for action, ready to work more effectively and efficiently and capable of generating new knowledge. But importantly, it creates a climate of trust, marking the start of a positive cycle.
If the spirit of collaboration comes naturally to a Start-up – is in its very genes – it is sometimes not so evident for more traditional organisations.
Establishing collaboration on a daily basis can require a great deal of effort at times. Three aspects must be taken into account and worked on:
the Human Factor: collaboration must be integrated into all forms of behaviour and ultimately into the very culture of a company, starting with greater transparency and more sharing. It should become a reflex.
Organisation: collaboration must be integrated into all structures and processes, favouring an organisation that is as flat as possible, based on merit and the recognition of knowledge and expertise.
Technology: better tools for collaboration, sharing and communication must be integrated, with proper support mechanisms put in place.
The Bottom Line
In an economy in which we work daily to solve problems, knowledge sharing has become a vital element of productivity. It’s in the interest of all organisations to take Knowledge Management into account.
Before applying the practice of collaboration, which itself can boost the transmission of knowledge, it is first and foremost a question of the organisation and individual attitudes present within a company and of course, a question of creating Trust.