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The Future of Knowledge Sharing

Knowledge Sharing isn't just about Standard Operating Procedures and processes; it's a significant contributor to growth in a business and an opportunity to scale business, mitigate business risk and promote engagement.
the future of knowledge sharing

And why Knowledge Management needs Knowledge Sharing

Whilst Knowledge Management is about efficient handling of company information, Knowledge Sharing isn’t just about Standard Operating Procedures and processes; it’s a significant contributor to growth in a business and an opportunity to scale business, mitigate business risk and promote engagement.

Whale recently conducted research to release the 2022 Future of Knowledge Sharing Report. A Guide for Scaling.

We wanted to elaborate on some of the research and considerations for what this might mean to an organization.

Knowledge Management versus Knowledge Sharing

The search for Knowledge Management (KM) Yields 1.750 000 000 results on Google, with the Oxford Dictionary defining KM as “Efficient handling on information and resources with a commercial organization.

Knowledge Sharing is more broadly defined as the exchange of information and know-how to help others and to collaborate with others to solve problems, develop new ideas, or implement policies or procedures.

“How do you manage knowledge in an effective, sustainable way? Start by thinking of it as knowledge sharing, not knowledge management.”

Whilst the difference between the two terms may seem like mere semantics, the impact on business is stark. Unless what we deem to be the golden key to scaling, knowledge can be shared in the moment of need where needed, it acts as friction to employee experience, customer experience, collaboration, and growth.

Knowledge Sharing is a Business Challenge

What was once thought the challenge for VPs of People is increasingly being considered a business-critical challenge. Inefficient Knowledge Sharing Costs Large Businesses $47 Million Per Year according to the Panopto Workplace Knowledge and Productivity Report. Considering that the report was published pre-Covid, that number could be radically higher in today’s terms.

Equally concerning is that employees spend around 26 days each year searching for information, which is valuable time that could be undoubtedly better invested (Critical Knowledge Transfer Book).

Knowledge Management technology has typically been viewed as a “privilege” for enterprise-sized organizations that could afford the product and the implementation and people support needed to ensure uptake.

These days increasing attention is being given to Knowledge Management and Sharing tools for entrepreneurs and organizations looking to scale across a number of industries.

Compounded Benefits of Knowledge Sharing

Knowledge Sharing matters now more than ever

In September 2021, a record 4.4 million people quit their jobs in the US, (CNBC) during the wider trend now known as The Great Resignation.

This has had a double-edged impact on many organizations resulting in loss of company knowledge that perhaps was not documented or shared and having to onboard new employees and team members with no standardized documented knowledge or means of sharing it.

Apart from triggering The Great Resignation, the Covid-19 pandemic has also altered the Future of Work itself resulting in many companies taking on a fully remote or hybrid approach to work

A 2019 survey conducted by Upwork showed that by 2028, 73% of all work departments expect to have remote workers.

Given that this study was conducted BC (before Covid), it is likely that this figure is higher today.

This means that Knowledge Sharing matters now, more than ever.

The Future of Knowledge Sharing for Startups

Managing knowledge in a startup or a small business is more spontaneous, unstructured, and tribal by nature. Ideas happen fast and are run with just as quickly! Who’s got time to document things right? Besides, it isn’t really a necessity, right?

Wrong.

An unstructured way of working when there are three team members all working together from one location is one thing but what happens when the business starts to scale?

Just use email? In our experience that doesn’t work well either. Check out why we banned email at Whale and saved hundreds of hours a month. In short, internal email creates friction, steals time, and can often result in different versions of saved knowledge.

Time is Money Growth. If you begin to think of time as the most valuable asset in your business’ growth, Knowledge Sharing begins to make a lot of sense, or should we say dollars and cents? The less time you have to spend explaining to someone how to do something is more time you’ll have available to develop strategy, connect with customers and partners or refine your product.

If everyone is taking the same approach to working with customers or resolving challenges not only are you creating operating efficiency but you’re also creating brand consistency; an all valuable asset in scaling.

Why traditional Knowledge Sharing fails

“Email is slowly dying as the preferred method of communication and collaboration. Staff members and the teams they associate with are rapidly shifting to workstream and social channels to interact. This transition dramatically accelerated with the recent shift to ‘work from anywhere”

Gartner’s 2022 Planning Guide for Collaboration and End-User Technologies Tweet

The challenge with mediums of traditional Knowledge Sharing including calls, emails, meetings, water cooler speak, and even good old knowledge repositories are that they result in inconsistent and duplicated knowledge. They are also subject to misinterpretation, keep organizations working siloed instead of cross-functionally and place immense strain on people, particularly those leading teams to be a teacher and ‘do-er’ when they should be focused on pioneering growth.

Obstacles to scaling through knowledge sharing

It’s no wonder thousands of founders and entrepreneurs have embraced Knowledge Sharing tools in recent years but often even these tools have consistently failed because they’ve neglected to utilize human first design principles.

The Trouble with “Users” is They’re Only Human and unless tools have been designed to bring company knowledge to the human, then what you have is a very expensive tool that won’t be adopted as a way of working.

The biggest obstacle to the way your company shares information is friction

Human behavior is like water and we humans always take the path of least resistance. We are more likely to tap someone on the shoulder than we would walk to a folder on a shelf to find information, even if the shelf is virtual, and we don’t have to walk anywhere at all.

Understanding this has been one of our founding principles.

Knowledge must flow to people and not the other way around.

Knowledge Storage ISN’T Knowledge Sharing

The biggest difference between a true Knowledge Sharing tool like Whale and other solutions is the only thing these other systems really offer is a repository for your SOPs, policies, and training manuals. 

The reason why we are seeing a lot of customers move from these tools to Whale is for the same reason that storing your documents in a drive doesn’t work. It’s yet another silo in which your content sits and where you expect your teams to take the time to go to and find what they need (Which most of them won’t do).

If there’s friction in having to adopt a process or tool, it won’t be adopted.

The adoption of AI into Knowledge Sharing platforms such as Whale means an intelligent connection between the platform and area of work suggesting information prompts when relevant. But what other trends will continue to influence Knowledge Sharing in 2022 and beyond?

💡 Content Matters for Knowledge Engagement

The rate of engagement increases dramatically depending on how content is structured. Use video and graphics to promote knowledge engagement. We often apply this in our efforts as organizations when sharing content with external partners and customers but tend to neglect this when creating content for internal customers. Bottom line is that content is more likely to be consumed when structured well and is interesting.

💡 Design for Humans

The fundamental flaw in most legacy systems is that they put the technology first and the human second. Designing for humans first becomes a key factor when considering what tools to adopt in your business. One of the reasons tools like Slack are so successful is that they’re designed for the natural flow of human interaction and communication.

💡 Affordable technology enables access

Knowledge Sharing is no longer for the few or for large enterprises. Technologies such as AI and intelligent enterprise have become increasingly accessible and affordable. This means that adopting a technology stack as a growing organization is not only possible but will fast track scaling.

💡 Knowledge as a Strategic Asset and Competitive Advantage

An organization’s success is highly influenced by how efficiently it can tap into its resources of data and knowledge. One way to think about it is to imagine you could clone your CEO and have him sit beside your team while they onboard new customers or have your CTO on hand to oversee your engineering team’s product updates? Now you can.

💡 Enterprise Knowledge is for Everyone

Gone are the days of siloed working. Enterprise information should be at hand when and where needed for all members of the organization. Need to know your leave policy or general information on your company or what your customer escalation process is? These should be available to all team members at all times in the moment of need.

💡 Frictionless User Experience to combat high cognitive load

“Cognitive load” relates to the amount of information that a person can hold at one time. Cognitive load is impacted by stress which means that if someone is under stress like most of us are in 2022, they are less likely to have the mental resources to go and look for information. Enterprise Knowledge should be shared seamlessly integrated into working apps where team members need to access information, placing less stress on the user and enabling higher engagement.

The Future of Knowledge Sharing – Choosing a Tool

Okay, so you’re convinced of the benefits of Knowledge Sharing and want to get started with the right tool? Hang ten, it’s important to choose the right tool and to understand you’re going to face two main challenges.

Knowledge needs to be documented

As CEO or team leader, you’re going to have to get the content out of your head or Google Drive or local storage device in order to be centralized to enable sharing. This might sound like a lot of work but in the long term, it’s a lot less work than having to do the same task over and over at the opportunity cost of growing your business.

This is also why, at Whale, we work with content experts to migrate and create content onto the platform. This brings us to the second and most important challenge when adopting a Knowledge Sharing Tool.

Mindset shift

As humans, we are inclined to approach tasks in the same manner and mindset but tasks need to be broken down and categorized differently. Some tasks are menial and others are investments. 

For example, you may think it’s quicker to pick up the phone and contact your on-the-ground salesperson in one location to resolve a particular challenge. But what if you have to do this with five different salespeople in five different locations? It may be easier to create a video once and put it into your Knowledge Sharing tool and automate the knowledge flow.

Creating a video if you’ve never done it before might seem like more work but that’s simply because it’s out of your ordinary task agenda. Actually once done, it’s done for a long period of time.

In this way, such a task is an investment in your growth. As you begin to think about tasks from a strategic perspective, you’ll begin to and want to systemize processes more

If you can master mindset, changing habits will be easy and ultimately form part of your culture.

Pick the right Knowledge Sharing Tool for your business

We designed Whale specifically for scaling organizations because we built key features into our solution to enable small and medium enterprises to scale fast. 

Regardless of your size however there are key functionality considerations and features that should be part of the consideration process when choosing a Knowledge Sharing tool. 

We highlighted some of the key features to consider;

  • Is it easy to onboard?
  • Does it have an option to help you migrate content?
  • Does it integrate into your working apps?
  • Does it feature a Rich Media Editor?
  • Are there templates to get you started?
  • Does it feature an image & GIF library?
  • Can you integrate video?
  • Does it provide reporting?
  • Does it have QR Code capability?
  • Is it cloud and/or app-based?
  • Does it feature an intuitive structure and interface?
  • Can you allocate team members to oversee certain knowledge?
  • Does it have social proof and reviews from other companies?

Want to know more about the Future of Knowledge Sharing Report 2022 and hear what the likes of Nadia Preston, VP of People at Remote, and Mary Glowacka, People Excellence Lead at Preply have to say?

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