Category Archives: Knowledge sharing

Is knowledge sharing a culture or a process ?

People often ask how one can install a culture of knowledge sharing.

Being an engineer, I look at the processes. What we do consciously are processes. What we do unconsciously is culture.
We sort of forget it is just a process.

In this great post by Nick Milton, Nick gives the example of a CEO who stretches the targets of the projects to force people to look for more and better knowledge.


pic : apesara

What starts as a formal process : ‘check with your collegues to do it better’, becomes company culture

Knowledge cafe

I attended a knowledge cafe. My first ever, and it was hosted by David Gurteen himself. So I got the real experience ūüėČ

Look at this presentation on how to run a knowledge cafe

A knowledge cafe is all about knowledge exchange through conversation. There is no formal feedback or wrap up in a knowledge cafe, but David invited us to blog about our experience. Bruno already did. He points out the importance of the group composition in the quality of the conversations. I think a homogenuous group leads to new insights and knowledge creation. In a heterogenuous group there will be more knowledge transfert (teaching and learning)

So both settings have value, in the right context

On knowledge hoarding and knowledge sharing

Knowledge hoarding (the ‘Knowledge is Power’ syndrome) is a recurring theme in many knowledge management debates.¬† Supported by academic research, the root cause is often said to be found in the hoarding reflex of the early early humans, hoarding vital resources to survive in periods of starvation.¬† Apparently we have a ‘hoarding’ gene responsible for this behaviour.
Today, our economical model is based on … sharing.¬† (At least the social security model in many european countries).¬† We share in periods of abundance, when we are healthy and have a good income.¬†¬† The model promises to give something back when we are in a period of shortage.
The optimistic view is that evolution will stimulate our ‘sharing’ gene to become dominant over our ‘hoarding’ gene.
Sharing will be our nature … just be patient.

Using folksonomies to come to collaboration and knowledge sharing

On a collaboration event organised by CMS Channel, Dirk Kenis explained the use of folksonomies to connect people in a network.

"Show me the structure of your information store and I will tell you who you are"

The setup is as follows (see the folksonomies of people describe their expertise. This information is then combined with the relations between the people, resulting in the visualisation of communities, leading to collaboration and knowledge sharing.
The folksonomies are the boundary objects, describing a person as he really is (or wants to be seen by other people). They are the points were personal environments meet.

The strength in my opinion is in the combination of folksonomies (see and networking (see and leveraging this combined information to actual collaboration and knowledge sharing.

Analysis of the tags used and created by a group show specific expertises or can point at gaps in the knowledge base of a team or an organization.


News from the trenches

The last posts from last year where about using and reusing (project) knowledge.
I want to start this year with a more practical post about how we do this currently.
One of my (personal) objectives of last year was to improve the use of collaborative project work spaces.
The target audience for this are our technical innovation and development departments.
These groups already have the habit of using a project work space for big projects, but the local drive was the big favorite.  Creating a Technical Report at the end of a project is also standard (for most of the projects to be honest).  This report is highly technical, written by development engineers, for development engineers.
The management of these highly valued reports from the past and in the future was also an item to be covered.

We have the technology in place.  Our collaborative platform allows for the easy creation of dedicated work spaces for a project, with delegated access right management, document repositories, forums, and an integrated search function.
People have been trained on how to use these tools.¬† Several info sessions have been organized, training material is available in several formats, …
The only thing remaining was that they actually started using it in the day to day live.
It took me some dedicated sessions to convince and demonstate how it will work in practice, but as of the beginning of this year there is a consensus on how to use these tools from now on.
A simple process was set up and approved. 

For each project a dedicated work space is set up.  This consists of an area for the project team and an area with wider read access where the technical reports can be published.
Once the project is finalised, all information is archived and the access rights are opened to a larger audience (customised to the project).
Using customised searches, the engineers can now look for :
 Рarchived or current project info
 Рall project information or technical reports only
 Рall combinations of these
This process is now included in the regular project management process, without creating extra work.
Sounds simple, but the mental shift from ‘This is something that looks good and that we can do’ to ‘This is our normal way of working since it is the only thing which makes sense’ is a big step.
Next is to get a formal knowledge reuse step included in the project start up phase.

Using project knowledge

In the AOK archives I found this contribution from Nancy Dixon about the creation and reuse of project knowledge.
The reuse of project knowledge has always been one of my favourites; and one of the key issues which initiated my involvement in knowledge management.
Nancy created a structured framework for transfering knowledge from one project team to another, carefully combining the use of knowledge databases with social processes.
On the knowledge supply side there is :
¬†– a ‘Sensemaking’ step, where the knowledge supplying team comes to
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† a common understanding of it’s experience
¬†– a ‘Translation’ step, where this knowledge is reviewed to identify
          the most important and usefull learnings
¬†– a ‘Spread’ step, where the learnings are captured in a reusable format
On the knowledge demand side we have :
¬†– a ‘Scanning’ step,¬†knowledge sharing is only possible and relevant when
          there is a demand, a request
¬†– an ‘Assist’ step, where a team with a question¬†is coached (assisted)
          by the team which supplied their learnings
¬†– an ‘Adaptation’ step, where the learnings are adapted
          by the new team in the new context this team will operate in

For the knowledge managers, who want to manage the knowledge, you can analyse and manage the knowledge database with the lessons learned.   



Nancy Dixon about knowledge sharing (using)

I am (re) reading the book Common knowledge by Nancy Dixon.
The theme of the book is sharing.  Knowledge only has value when it is used and reused.
The book is the result of a research project envolving major companies (among others British Petroleum, the US Army, Ernst & Young, …), where the knowledge sharing processes were studied.
She concludes that three criteria will define which transfer process will be effective :
 Рthe intended receiver : same team or different team, context
 Рthe nature of the task : routine or nonroutine job
 Рthe type of knowledge : from tacit to explicit knowledge
With these criteria, she identifies five knowledge transfert processes :
 Рserial transfer : when the same team is using the same knowledge again
 Рnear transfer : when another team is using the same knowledge in a smilar context
 Рfar transfer : when tacit knowledge is transferred about a nonroutine task
 Рstrategic transfer : when large parts of the company are impacted
 Рexpert transfer : when explicit knowledge is transferred about nonroutine tasks
In the following chapters, each of these transfers is explained in more detail, with practical examples of how the transfer process was implemented in different companies.
What I like so far is the emphasis on the using of knowledge, not so much on the creation of databases with lessons learned.
… to be continued …