April 10, 2018

Sharing Knowledge for Engagement and Connectedness

Posted in Knowledge Management tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:57 pm by degyes

KNOWLEDGE is the most commonly lost asset in an organization. Knowledge loss costs companies time and money. That’s because when knowledge is lost, individuals and teams have to relearn everything since everyone’s maintaining their own “personal” vaulted knowledge-base. People are repeating the same tasks without benefiting from the experience gained by those who preceded them. What’s more alarming is that most people at the leadership level are hardly aware that such a problem exists. Tools can help. But tools alone won’t solve the problem. Recent years have witnessed tremendous innovation in products and platforms that leverage Knowledge Sharing. But technology is of limited effect if human beings aren’t driving the process. The good news is that we’ve devised an agile methodology to address the problem of knowledge disappearance. As a leader among your professional group and initiator in your organization, you’ll be equipped to see Knowledge Sharing, and to reap its benefits.

What is Knowledge Sharing?

Knowledge Sharing takes a casual conversation, idea, or even a chat between team members, and develops it into a statement or story containing an unambiguous take-home point or lesson-learned. That point could be based around a best practice, a how-to procedure, a product release notification, or any unit of knowledge that one human being can convey to another. Knowledge Sharing is a collaborative and adaptive process that thrives on participation and feedback from the community. In solving business and technical problems, or if marketing and promoting products and services, an organization shares all manner of information, from routine messages or tweets to formal documents. Sometimes, it codifies that information into a structured knowledgebase. This enables the community, that is, its members or target audiences, to apply the knowledge in ways that are practical, beneficial, and meaningful.

Why share knowledge? What’s in it for me?

Shared knowledge enables an organization to achieve repeatable processes for predictable results. Purposes could encompass improving internal processes and site procedures, as well as getting customers to spend time visiting your site and streaming content or buying things. It provides a set of best practices to help each team member do their job better and to achieve their professional goals. What’s more, Knowledge Sharing enables the team to function more effectively and cohesively as a unit.

Once an organization becomes convinced as to the immense value of Knowledge Sharing, you start hearing leaders, groups, and individuals instead asking What’s in it for us?

Where are we going with Knowledge Sharing? What’s the Vision?

We envision a professional culture where teams are smarter, more effective, and better connected because they’re sharing knowledge collaboratively in an atmosphere of trust. We’re passionate about building ecosystems that enable companies to retain their customers by keeping them satisfied and engaged with meaningful content tailored to their interests and needs. We believe in building communities where:

  • Processes are repeatable,
  • Procedures reflect agreed best practice with predictable results,
  • The best articles, videos, podcasts, and presentations are identified, posted, and exploited for good,
  • Target users and knowledge consumers are engaged,
  • Haphazard implementation is eliminated, and
  • Reinvention of the wheel is eradicated.

What is Knowledge Sharing trying to achieve? What’s the Mission?

Making our Knowledge Sharing vision a reality requires keeping several key goals front and center. Any process or method in a Knowledge Sharing program needs to align with one or more of these goals.

  • Leveraging an organization’s knowledge to help sell, support, and maintain its products and services,
  • Integrating those products and services successfully and getting them to work better,
  • Delivering integrated systems to customers and partners, and keeping them running smoothly,
  • Retaining customers and keeping them connected,
  • Increasing revenue, and reducing support costs.

How do you do Knowledge Sharing?

Doing Knowledge Sharing well requires leveraging the knowledge assets held by an organization to benefit everyone. Several key ingredients stand at the center of any Knowledge Sharing project or effort:

  • Creating an environment where immediate posting of information is a highly regarded value, and where constructively given feedback is not only expected, but actively sought.
  • Building a cadre of curators, possibly including customers, integrators, and partners who make sure knowledge stays fresh, not static.
  • Developing an atmosphere where collaboration is an expectation and something folks feel safe doing. This means there is no fear of skill set commoditization or professional marginalization.
  • Implementing systems that make crowd-sourcing easy, and where all community members can share with minimal overhead.
  • Making the knowledge assets searchable, transparent, accessible, readable, and intuitive.

What do we need to make Knowledge Sharing work?

Knowledge Sharing can succeed and thrive only in the total absence of fear. Naturally, such an environment requires trust and good will on the part of all, leader, sharer, and consumer alike. Of course, we can’t assume this atmosphere exists in a given organization. Often, it requires leadership that exemplifies the qualities of fearlessness and rewarding risk-taking. We advise being persistent and patient. Realize from the outset that implementing a Knowledge Sharing culture might require a process of slow cultivation.

What can Knowledge Sharing catalysts do to create such an atmosphere? Working within an agreed and publicized code of ethics, even a really simple one, helps a lot. For instance, we’ve always made the rule “Embarrass No One” a basic and unassailable guideline. This way, anyone approached to share what they know never lives under the threat that sharing would lead to adverse consequences.

What can Knowledge Sharing sponsors, that is, community leaders, do to enable Knowledge Sharing to thrive? Eliminating the fear of managerial retribution, or even the vaguest threat of mild retaliation, is absolutely essential. This commitment to transparency and trust begins at the C-level and filters downward. It means not only allowing but encouraging people to share—inside the organization—information that could be unflattering toward its technology, products, or processes. Sharing externally would, naturally, require a more thorough vetting process that takes public perception, reputation, and contractual obligations, into account. Our Knowledge Sharing code of ethics began with the principle “First, Do No Harm.”

Challenges

Knowledge Sharing initiatives will inevitably face challenges like these:

  • Getting knowledge out of the private vaults of engineers, experts, and even the executive leadership, and sharing it among colleagues, partners, and customers
  • Stopping “learn and lose,” dispersion of data, informational chaos, lengthy information-release timescales, and constant interruption to knowledge acquisition
  • Creating a professional environment where people feel safe sharing what they know

Solutions

Establish a tradition of Knowledge Sharing in an organization, and introduce tools, platforms, and supporting technologies that advance Knowledge Sharing. Most importantly, bring about a culture that rewards and encourages:

  • Achieving repeatable processes for predictable results;
  • Making those processes accessible, iterative, adaptive, and intuitive;
  • Building an expert team that provides solutions, suggestions, and recommendations;
  • Putting in place feedback loops ensuring that knowledge is reviewed, commented—and if necessary, vetted—and kept up-to-date;
  • Creating and maintaining an archive of stories that the worldwide professional community can draw upon to prevent and solve problems;
  • Cultivating a global community that serves as “lightning rods” for Knowledge Sharing;
  • Listening, caring, being open and eager to help colleagues improve their skills and achieve better results on all activity levels ranging from the technical to the commercial.

The outcome of applying these solutions is that an organization creates a virtual “campfire” around which teams gather to trade stories and share what they know. When the people in an organization feel warm, safe, and excited bringing their stories to that campfire, you know your Knowledge Sharing initiative is heading in the right direction.

How a Conversation Becomes a Story

Good will, commitment, and ethics are essential ingredients in a successful Knowledge Sharing program. But how do you actually capture, refine, publicize, and disseminate knowledge in a way that people will access, read, and apply it? Here’s an agile methodology describing the knowledge capture, publication, and tagging process, from end-to-end. While offering a structured approach, it contains considerable flexibility for the executive leader running a Knowledge Sharing effort on the fly. With some patience, persistence, and a little help from your team, you can apply this model almost anywhere.

Phase 1: Capture

Identify an issue of importance, share the idea—still in raw form—on your internal chat forum or message board; or, delegate to your favorite writer to assemble a draft article or statement, and share it with the team.

Phase 2: Publicize

Identify the best person in your organization—perhaps the CTO, CMO or CFO—to review the article as a candidate for sharing publicly; ensure technical (or financial) accuracy, completeness, and appropriateness for going “live.” If you have the resources, assign someone to assure editorial quality. Take it public by posting to your organization’s Knowledge Sharing platform, blog, wiki, or social media page. Depending on its security sensitivity and writing quality, share it onto your corporate Facebook page, or to your LinkedIn profile. Tweet it. Encourage talk-backs. Request feedback. Pay particular attention to the reactions of your most critical readers (they’re always the most helpful and informative!)

Phase 3: Tag

Aid search by getting your Knowledge Sharing curator to tag your post using an enterprise tagging tool. This leverages its findability with metadata. The right combination of human tagging and A.I. algorithms can go a long way toward putting your article on the top of the Google results pile!

Phase 4: Go Viral

Aggregate your best-of-breed articles for periodic sharing via push email or a newsletter. Encourage and reward feedback from the readership and commenting by the community. Take it to a wider audience and maximize impact!

Phase 5: Repeat Process

Aided by Knowledge Sharing catalysts, repeat the process and create new knowledge assets, capture best practices, identify experts, and make teams smarter!

The Role of the Knowledge Sharing Catalyst

In a Knowledge Sharing ecosystem, a catalyst is both a role and a personality. She is a conversation facilitator, chat initiator, community builder, thought stimulator, as well as an evangelist. A focused and structured extrovert with well-refined social skills, the catalyst has the finesse and the affability to build a team of contributors, and the patience to act as curator of a growing base of knowledge assets. As an executive leader, we encourage you to identify and appoint a Knowledge Sharing catalyst to whom to entrust the routine but vital tasks required to make Knowledge Sharing thrive in your organization.

What a catalyst does

By definition, a catalyst, like in biology, acts on a substance to make it do its job or fulfill its purpose. Similar for a human catalyst in a Knowledge Sharing ecosystem. Here are several of the key functions your catalyst will be expected to perform.

Network

Get friendly with your teammates, chat them up, schedule Skype and WhatsApp sessions with them. Ask them about site visits to customers, partners, and suppliers. Find out about technical issues and problems they’ve encountered in the development cycle. Get on Zoom, TeamViewer, or Telegram with them, and listen to what they’ve got to share. Become a master practitioner in the art of the conversation. Within appropriate limits, get really flirty here!

Research

Do your homework. Or delegate a team member to do it for you. Ask the right questions. Educate yourself and your team to become better-informed investigators.

Follow-up

Set reminders prompting planned follow-ups with contributors. Ping them with emails or text messages. Get on Google Hangouts with them. Track your email requests with reminders to nudge them. Send out pings for comment and review of write-ups. Be the shepherd that drives and champions the Knowledge Sharing effort.

Dashboards: Analytics at Work

A dashboard provides each user or visitor to a Knowledge Sharing portal with the information they need, at a glance, to make better informed decisions regarding key aspects of their daily work and where to focus attention. A dashboard acts as graphical frontend to a Knowledge Sharing portal that enables people to find things quickly and do things easily. It visualizes the display of knowledge assets in a structure that’s logical to the user, and optimizes that display in a way that’s most effective and meaningful. In addition, it employs A.I. mechanisms to learn about who the users are, what they do, and what they need and want to know. Depending on the profile of the user logged into the portal, the dashboard offers a targeted set of indicators informing that persona regarding items relevant to performing their professional functions.

For a dashboard to be of value, it needs to display informative and actionable content. Here is a mock-up example, created using open source tools, depicting how a Knowledge Sharing portal can optimize knowledge assets, providing your team with the essential functions they need in performing their daily work. The dashboard presented below is optimized for you, as CEO, or for the CIO to whom you’ve entrusted Knowledge Sharing in your company. It contains a set of tile cards, reports, and indicators giving insights into how your Knowledge Sharing platform is being utilized. You can instantly obtain basic stats and metrics regarding site visitors, daily articles posted, subscribers joined, comments pending, status of contributions, and articles consumed over a particular time-frame. This data, updated in real-time, provides you with the details you need to determine the effectiveness of your Knowledge Sharing program, helping you find out, for example, who’s engaged, and who needs outreach.

KS_Dashboard_VoH

A good dashboarding tool provides a highly personalized user experience. Enhanced with Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), in addition to displaying reports and newsfeeds tailored to particular users, it supports auto-generated notifications and auto-triggered pushing of content to people, teams, and wider audiences. Push decisions are driven at the platform’s back-end and are based on users’ shared characteristics, expressed interests, level of engagement, and patterns of behavior.

A variety of open source solutions are available to help your team get organized around its Knowledge Sharing efforts. There are dozens out there, though here’s a short list of a few that come recommended.

  • OpenKM – create a fully-featured knowledge base
  • eXo – popular for intra-team collaboration
  • Slack – great for supporting the social collaboration aspects of Knowledge Sharing
  • myBase – appropriate for organizations that depend on research and that want to create deep knowledgebases
  • Google Drive – a reasonably powerful Knowledge Sharing tool that’s widely integrated. Provides a great place to get started because it’s ubiquitous and familiar to all
  • Zendesk – great for supporting customer service efforts

Leveraging A.I. Algorithms and Machine Learning

A good knowledge sharing platform combines:

  1. Metadata about shared knowledge – that is, articles, videos and different types of postings;
  2. Data about the platform’s users – meaning, those posting and consuming knowledge; and
  3. Business Intelligence (BI) algorithms that cross-reference ‘a’ and ‘b’ to present an optimized view geared to the informational needs and professional function of individual users and teams.

A growing assortment of powerful A.I. tools and innovative machine learning technologies is available to support your Knowledge Sharing efforts. Portals, platforms, and search tools integrate these mechanisms to analyze, manage, and optimize your content, and target it to your various audiences. Several of the key automated functions that can help drive a Knowledge Sharing effort include:

  • Analyzing a user’s reading patterns, remembering topics that interest them, and using that data to make smart recommendations
  • Identifying disengaged users and selecting the kind of communication and content most likely to get them back on board
  • Predicting who’ll read which articles and matching content to audience
  • Automating content curation to strengthen search, while making “push” attempts more likely to succeed
  • Providing a personalized user experience that serves up the right content, to the right people, at the right moment, anticipating what the user wants to know before they’re even aware they want to know it.

Acquiring the most appropriate A.I. tools and implementing them on your Knowledge Sharing platform will go a long way toward ensuring that your content reaches its audience, keeps users engaged, partners informed, and customers feeling connected.

Call to Action

The success of an organization, distributed or local, is fueled by its communicative openness, and its ability to collaborate, adapt, and share. That means taking knowledge assets out of the private vault, and placing them into a common area, accessible by all, filtered by relevance and pushed to those who need them. Good intentions are important getting a Knowledge Sharing ecosystem launched. But sooner rather than later, you’ll need to develop some social, entrepreneurial, and technical skills, or delegate to someone who’s got them. As a leader, consider that Knowledge Sharing, while playing upon the idealistic character of humans, isn’t being done exclusively for altruistic reasons. For people to be willing to participate, there needs to be a clearly identifiable business benefit. That payoff is the profitability of saving time, reducing hassle, removing obstacles, selling product, and preserving reputation. At the same time, sharing makes us feel good about ourselves, our teams, and our work. Beyond rewarding people with bonuses, perks, movie passes, and gourmet chocolate, a successful Knowledge Sharing program, implicitly or explicitly, will exploit the very human need to care and to feel included in something larger than ourselves.

Exercises

  • Go out and network. As a leader, you’re doing that already. This time, talk to the techies. Ask them to be specific about any problems they’ve encountered and how they’re solving the issue. Remember, people like to talk about themselves, especially when they can place themselves in a positive light, and feel trust in the interaction. Back them with the management level support they need sharing the story about how they solved the problem.
  • Start a Knowledge Sharing blog. Or a podcast. Or a Wiki. Or an email newsletter. Or, just go ahead and post that favorite product description to your LinkedIn profile. While the medium you choose can be important, what’s way more vital is your commitment to keeping it provisioned and updated with interesting, relevant, readable, and searchable content.
  • Recruit a Knowledge Sharing evangelist. Nominate someone in your organization to launch your Knowledge Sharing initiative. Encourage and incentivize your team to:
    • Become more conversant in your organization’s products, technologies, and services. Rewarding people with Amazon gift certificates is nice, but what’s far more effective is cultivating a sense of ownership, which leads to a feeling of belonging and identification with the team’s success
    • Get familiar with Knowledge Sharing tools and their strengths and limitations, including finding out how they’re leveraged by A.I., which is becoming increasingly central to engagement.
    • Deploy those tools in alignment with your organization’s vision and goals.
      Yes, of course this is difficult! Remember to reread the chapters on Your Personal Leadership, Being Authentic, and Pillars of Alignment.
  • Recruit contributors. As your knowledge sharing initiative gains traction, appoint team members to provide material, write articles, tweet, chat and spread the word about how Knowledge Sharing is already yielding results. Encountering skepticism or even resistance? Take a step back and acknowledge that you’re doing something courageous and even revolutionary in your organization, and that it’s not always easy.
  • Be a Knowledge Sharing sponsor. Become that person at the leadership rank who generates enthusiasm, from the C-level down to the grassroots, and who can allocate resources (human and material) to your Knowledge Sharing effort. How you do this may depend on the nature of your organization and the degree of trust you’ve so far managed to inculcate in encouraging people to take initiatives. Most notably, only you, as sponsor, has the prestige to give the evangelists and contributors the support they need to lead and implement the organization’s knowledge goals.

Looking forward to hearing about your Knowledge Sharing journey!

Dave Egyes

Email: david.egyes@gmail.com
Skype: davends
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/daveegyes/

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