What’s Your Strategy for Sharing Knowledge?

Two key strategies for Knowledge management (KM) & Knowledge Sharing (KS) can be identified: codification and personalization.

Codification

Some companies have pursued a codification strategy. Over the last years, they have developed elaborate ways to codify, store, and reuse knowledge.

  • Knowledge is codified using a "people-to-documents" approach: it is extracted from the person who developed it, made independent of that person, and reused for various purposes.
  • After removing client-sensitive information, staff members develop 'knowledge objects' by pulling key pieces of knowledge such as interview guides, work schedules, benchmark data, and market segmentation analyses out of documents and storing them in the electronic repository for people to use.
  • This approach allows many people to search for and retrieve codified knowledge without having to contact the person who originally developed it.
  • That opens up the possibility of achieving scale in knowledge reuse and thus of growing the business.
  • Because documents were available already, people did not have to spend time tracking down and talking with the people who had first developed them. The codification of such knowledge can save a person a fair amount of work. It is essential to make sure that the codification process works efficiently.
  • Staff members manage the electronic repository and help users find and use information. Specialists write reports and analyses that many others can use. People are needed to codify and store documents.
  • The resulting themed databases are linked through a network.

Personalization

People-to-documents is not the only way people share knowledge. By contrast, other organizations emphasize a personalization strategy. They focus on dialogue between individuals, not knowledge objects in a database.

  • Knowledge that has not been codified — and probably couldn't be — is transferred in brainstorming sessions and one-on-one conversations.
  • People collectively arrive at deeper insights by going back and forth on problems they need to solve.
  • To make personalization strategies work, firms invest heavily in building networks of people.
  • Knowledge is shared not only face-to-face but also over the telephone, by e-mail, and via videoconferences.
  • Networks can be fostered in many ways: by transferring people between offices; by supporting a culture in which people are expected to return messages from colleagues promptly; by creating directories of experts; and by using "consulting directors" within an organization to assist project teams.
  • Organizations have also developed electronic document systems, but the purpose of the systems is not to provide knowledge objects.
  • Instead, people scan documents to get up to speed in a particular area and to find out who has done work on a topic. They then approach those people directly.

When one initially looks at how companies manage knowledge, they all use both the codification and the personalization approaches. When one dugs deeper, however, effective firms excel by focusing on one of the strategies and using the other in a supporting role.

This blog is based on an excerpt of an article in the Harvard Business Review (Harvard Business School)

Ready to share your knowledge?

  • The way organizations use KM and KS strategies can be similar to the way other networks of people share knowledge and experiences.
  • Some try to find documents or blog contributions of colleague organizations or other inspirational people on the internet.
  • Others pick up the phone or send a message to a person to have a chat about their experiences on a specific topic.

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