How many times have you seen your colleagues taking notes on a post-it or a piece of paper?
Maybe it’s just to quickly brainstorm, plan a project or manage their to-dos.
But is this information really not worth sharing?
Wouldn’t these notes be helpful if you were going to help out on or lead the project? In this case, those notes could trigger a better understanding of another person’s mindset.
This simple idea highlights the importance of sharing information inside a team or company.
3 different types of knowledge
Before talking about how information can be shared, we need to understand that different types of knowledge exist. Academic research has identified 3 different types of knowledge: Explicit Knowledge, Tacit Knowledge and Embedded Knowledge.
Explicit Knowledge is the most accessible layer of knowledge, which can easily be shared. It can be defined as “know-what”, and is rather easy to identify, save and share since it can be found in documents and texts. Storage systems such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Box and OneDrive are great for storing and sharing documents with your colleagues, unlocking this type of knowledge in your team.
The second type is more difficult to tackle. Tacit Knowledge is defined as “know-how” which is more experience-based and personal. This type of knowledge depends on context, since it relies on intuition and action. It is therefore very difficult to pass on to others. The notion of context is very important, as people may react differently to a situation and therefore this type of knowledge often remains personal and not easily accessible to others.
The last type of knowledge is a combination of Explicit and Tacit Knowledge, called Embedded Knowledge.
Embedded Knowledge is directly rooted in the processes, products and structures of a company. This type of knowledge is either formally communicated to establish processes or informal and not explicitly stated if it relies on explicit and tacit knowledge. Examples of Embedded Knowledge in organizations are rules, codes of conduct, organizational culture, products and processes.
Why it is important for knowledge to be managed and shared
According to Forbes there is an increase of the volume of data that is being shared.
"Scientists have worked out exactly how much data is sent to a typical person in the course of a year - the equivalent of every person in the world reading 174 newspapers every single day (Derbyshire, 2011). This overload of data is making knowledge management increasingly more important.“
It is therefore essential to manage knowledge sharing in order to facilitate the process and make sure the important information is unlocked.
Managing knowledge helps companies facilitate their decision-making capabilities and build a spirit of learning to encourage cultural change and innovation.
Moreover, finding solutions to easily pass on knowledge is very important in case of turnover. Staff turnover represents a large threat to knowledge loss in organizations. In case of a position handover, it is very difficult for a company to ensure continuity of knowledge from one employee to another, especially regarding the “know-how” and experience of the person leaving the position.
Every person has their signature touch, but for a new person taking over the job, being able to access explicit knowledge such as documents or databases as well as tacit knowledge like client negotiation techniques would help accelerate the onboarding process and decrease knowledge loss.
How knowledge can be shared more easily
As previously mentioned storage systems are great to share documents and easily retrieve them. They are perfect for managing Explicit Knowledge but do not help access the Tacit layer of knowledge.
A document alone is often not sufficient to fully understand the knowledge shared.
However, opening the document in its context with the author’s comments and any collaboration that took place regarding the information would help a newcomer understand and learn from this particular context.
It also becomes easier to ask for specific information from the right person, saving countless hours of understanding and searching for the right contact. This is where a collaboration and task management tool like Azendoo comes in.
Azendoo helps to centralize and store information, but it also allows you to retrieve not only documents but also discussions, tasks, notes, and comments in their context from the various people involved.
A new employee can then easily retrieve tons of information about how tasks are usually dealt with, whether by other team members or by previous employees.
One can gain insight about how others manage conversations, who to ask for help in specific situations, what timeframe to establish for projects in different contexts, etc…
The link between Explicit and Tacit Knowledge is therewith facilitated through collaboration in task management tools such as Azendoo. The key is the contextualization of information.
Managing and sharing knowledge is highly important due to the increase of data sharing and turnover, helping a company maintain its competitive edge.
Limiting knowledge sharing to document repositories is not sufficient as this only allows you to share the know-what, not the know-how.
Centralizing information in its context allows teams and companies to start sharing the know-how information.
This can be achieved with the use of a tool such as Azendoo, which helps unlock Explicit Knowledge.