Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, recently claimed that “it is only by working together on developing ideas that we can truly change the world.” So, in the spirit of the holiday season, we wanted to examine how the gift of knowledge sharing and the successful implementation of knowledge transfer systems can avoid costly knowledge loss for organizations of any size.
“What’s in it for me?” is a gripe frequently heard from participants in traditional networking engagements, and one of the most common concerns that keeps individuals from sharing their professional knowledge and expertise. Harvard Business Review’s Dorothy Leonard reported recently on the issue of personal gains from knowledge transfer in her article How to Prevent Experts from Hoarding Knowledge. Leonard notes that beyond lack of time or resources for knowledge transfer, there is often a gap in financial incentive, personal ego and discontent/frustration with their company.
To avoid this knowledge transfer block, we should consider how to advance and develop ideas that can be mutually beneficial for both organizational and personal growth. The key to achieving this balance, and ensuring that knowledge transfer successfully takes place, is to align the right people with the right projects and make them feel vested in providing their insights — both within their own organization and with outside parties. In his recent post, What Changes the World? Ideas, Branson belabors this point, and feels that “by sharing ideas with others, we build authentic and genuine relationships with people based on a shared sense of purpose.” Established knowledge transfer systems help foster this sense of community within organizations, as mutual business initiatives give purpose to information exchanges.
In a previous post, What’s Lost When Experts Retire, Leonard touches on the consequences companies face if experts ‘hoard’ their professional knowledge and expertise. She outlines “critical losses in four areas in particular: relationships, reputation, re-work and regeneration.” By establishing successful knowledge transfer systems, these losses can be minimized or avoided altogether. Leonard stresses that beyond the direct financial losses companies face when deep insights and expertise leave a company, customer relationships and strategic account management take significant hits when accrued knowledge is no longer available to tackle client challenges.
As the year wraps up and the holiday season is upon us, ask yourself how you or your company could ensure that knowledge transfer systems are successfully integrated into your business operations in the coming year.