Why sharing within the business place is good for everyone

Sep 9, 2013 by

Adopting a sharing culture within the workplace can be a challenge. However, the benefits far outweigh the challenges, so why aren’t more companies doing them?

What is knowledge sharing?

Knowledge Sharing is an activity through which knowledge (i.e., information, skills, or expertise) is exchanged among all members of the company regardless of job role or position.

The challenges

The main challenge is protecting time on a regular basis. This can be particularly difficult within an agency context where tight client deadlines can often divert attention away from internal activities. There are also obvious cost implications in taking your whole team away from client paying work for a couple of hours.

The other challenge revolves around the willingness of your employees to participate. Some will naturally be more receptive to public speaking; there are those that will revel in and enjoy their 15 or so minutes, and others who will loathe it. Take that into consideration and then make a concerted effort towards making sure sharing doesn’t sit with a few individuals, but that everyone is actively encouraged  to contribute.

Why we do them

White October, the company I work for have been doing them for a couple of years. Dave Fletcher, Managing Director explains

“We did them because people were doing interesting things in their own time, and we realised how valuable the learning was and wanted a forum to share it internally.”

The team take 2 hours out over lunch time on the first friday of every month, to sit, talk, eat and share something with the rest of the team. This normally includes 4 talks which can range from: a new person introducing their role to the rest of the company, a javascript demo or an introduction to responsive design.

The benefits

1. Builds confidence in public speaking

Public speaking is a skill that the majority of us could improve upon. Knowledge sharing provides a perfect space for people to practice in an informal environment and in front of a familiar, supportive audience. Mistakes can be made at no real cost and friendly constructive feedback given in return.

2. Gives a platform to promote / show off skills and side projects

Keeping topics as flexible as possible allows people the chance to choose what they want to talk about. Knowledge shares can provide a great platform for people to share and receive feedback on work they’re doing out of hours. This can reveal a lot about what drives and interests them, it may reveal specialisms in their skill set i.e. a fascination with a particular technology. It will also make the contributor feel valued that they have a captive audience to bounce ideas and get kudos off their peers!

3. Reinforces expertise to the outside world

Knowledge shares provide great content – don’t let it go to waste! Share this with the outside world i.e. through live tweeting. Get other people involved, run a google hangout or receive questions via twitter. Upload videos, presentations to slideshare and encourage people to blog about what they talked about or what they’ve learnt. It also shows clients that you know your stuff and helps give a human face to the company.

4. Good to get the whole team together

Every now and then it’s good to bring the whole team together and look at the bigger picture, looking beyond departments or projects and instead looking at what makes the company special; the people that work for it! It’s a very authentic tool for building morale, helps bridge gaps departments and because everyone – from the intern to the MD – is involved, it’s a real leveller. Plus, it’s a great excuse to eat pizza!

Above all, it empowers employees to take ownership of knowledge and observe how it flows within the company. People are more likely to stop and ask: ‘Do we have any team knowledge on this?’ and management may be more inclined to use people’s skill sets more appropriately when scheduling work. And let’s face it, isn’t that the type of culture we all want to promote?

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