We asked a group of Wiley journal editors and authors to share their insights on effective knowledge management practices. Here’s what they shared with us.
What we know and how we show that we know it is an ever-increasing body of content, skills, and perspectives. Managing all of this for an organization can be complicated at best and almost impossible at worst. However, recent research is providing ways for a better understanding of how knowledge is constructed and how it is connected to prior learning. Below are some ways to put this research into practice.
- Allow For Flexibility
Given that the knowledge that we have is generally constructed (rather than simple rote memorization of lists or words), it is essential to understand how the learner actually creates knowledge and how the environment impacts this construction. In general, learners prefer to learn in different ways; some may be more “visual” learners, while others may want to be an active participant in the discovery of the learning. Some learners best like to learn by reading about how to do it, while others want to figure it out on their own. Allowing for flexibility for group learning, individual development of skills, and ongoing collaborative integration is an essential part in building an organization that is continually improving with a growth perspective.
- Embed Learning in Everything
Invest in or re-configure existing HR practices. Build learning into performance management systems; offer job rotations; set up learning-focused mentoring programs; organize 'brown bag' lunches where individuals reflect on and share how learning opportunities have impacted their roles. These processes will open up opportunities for reflection among peers, which may lead to further learning at both individual and group levels. Search for people who believe in open innovation as an approach that strengthens the expertise of employees instead of competing with them.
- Set Clear Open Innovation Objectives
If you would like to increase efficiency of your operation you might want to outsource part of your development to external partners to focus on your core competences, but if you want to increase your innovativeness you should start engaging with customers, startups or partners from other industries. Linking your objectives to corporate strategy, if you have a defender’s strategy (e.g. being cost leader or niche market leader), you should only invest in customer and supplier integration activities as they are paying off with your corporate strategy. If you are following a prospector´s strategy, (being technology leader) you should invest in a wide range of different activities like research institutes, startups or cross-industry partners.
- Overcome Selfishness by Using Selfishness
Managers must explicitly recognize the knowledge sharing efforts of their employees and acknowledge the ownership of their ideas. Doing so can boost the pride and sense of power of their employees. Directly proportional to the potential benefits of innovations, generating and implementing these ideas is complicated and requires plenty of input, particularly from expert employees with special skills and knowhow. If the ownership of the shared knowledge is not clearly acknowledged, expert employees may not share knowledge. Instead they may use their social influence, which is established by their power based on expertise, to achieve their personal goals even at the expense of collective benefits.
- Actively Identify Critical Knowledge
The next 10 to 15 years will see a massive potential loss of knowledge by organizations as experienced, knowledgeable boomers retire. We knew this was coming yet relatively few companies large or small have taken active steps to address the issue. Even if the next generation learns in a similar way, they have far less time to learn, so active learning and diversity of experience will be essential.
- Foster Authentic Leadership. Develop leaders who can demonstrate relational transparency and show confidence in others’ abilities. Encourage them to recognize and share their own vulnerabilities, share information, and trust employees to work on their own initiative. Leaders should encourage collective learning about the broader work environment, which will lead to the mastery of wider areas of expertise and better utilization of skills.
- Balance Your Open and Closed Activities
Open Innovation enables your organization to integrate external knowledge and ideas, co-create products or services or commercialize your own technologies or competencies in new markets. If you are a defender, invest up to 20% of your internal resources (money, people, attention etc.) towards open innovation activities, if you follow a prospector’s strategy you should invest up to 80% for open innovation and only 20% for internal development.
- Create a Competitive, Free Market-like Environment
Managers must introduce an environment wherein employees can autonomously share their knowledge and collect rewards according to the assessed value of the knowledge that they have contributed. In other words, managers must empower their employees to promote their knowledge and claim the territoriality of their ideas while maintaining a climate in which such inputs are cherished with fairness and a collegial spirit. Such organizational context allows employees to capitalize on one another’s contributions to the accomplishment of organizational innovations.
- Review the Quality of the Knowledge
Many individuals and organizations have been blinded by the use of the term “knowledge management” into ignoring the fact that much of the ‘intelligence’ they rely on is supposition, rumor, and generally questionable data/information. This challenge will particularly come to the fore in the age of big data so it’s essential to develop processes to review the quality of the knowledge (information/data) that organizations have available.
- Create a Psychologically Safe Environment
In many situations, the view of novice or mediocre employees fuels a radical shift from current products to new ones. Thus, managers must create a psychologically safe environment wherein low-status employees can readily share and promote their knowledge without having concerns about the reactions of others toward their views. The individualized considerations and inclusive attitudes of managers, which will be manifested by inviting and appreciating the voices of each and every member, can contribute to the establishment of such a safe climate.
Be sure to check out our free research collection on Knowledge Management.