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Knowledge Sharing: Beyond Access
by Denham Grey

Sharing knowledge is one of the first cultural roadblocks we run into when implementing a KM project or program. The common recipe reads: "A corporate intranet with technology to allow people to create their own home pages encourages sharing." I believe the intranet solves only part of the knowledge sharing quandary. Real sharing implies opportunity for feedback, acceptance of critique, willingness to engage in deep dialog, and the expectation of reciprocity. Sharing requires a level of trust. It is a two way process and forms an integral part of relationship building.
Knowledge sharing means a commitment to inform, translate and educate interested colleagues. It is an active listening and learning process, not a technology- driven panacea. The key to sharing is helping the other party appreciate your context, which is difficult unless the context can be constrained. For example, within a community of practice, there may be agreement on a common language, or there may be sufficient context accumulated in the form of common experience and learning. Information sharing is not only about the technical aspects of work. Tasks, vision, values, goals, contacts, support, feelings, opinions, problems and questions are all part of the sharing experience.
Quality sharing is closely tied to personal identity-- your perception of the value of your information, your social standing in the community and your motivation for engaging in negotiation and exchange. To share knowledge, people must find meaning that all can accept and build enough context to allow information to be used efficiently. If sharing is to become a way of life, a marker of the corporate culture, there must be active participation and example from top management. To make it work takes time, experimentation, and resources, and commitment to make it work. There are enough existing barriers without employees having to worry whether  significant sharing is deemed appropriate "work
Innovation does not happen merely through access to the thoughts or ideas of others. It's the opportunity to bounce ideas off colleagues and to negotiate meaning socially that adds context, relevance, verification and multiple perspectives on utility. This critical 'rounding' phase of knowledge sharing is where opportunity, quality and value are added to the isolated idea.
The key to knowledge sharing may lie beyond your immediate community of practice, outside your department and with a larger group of all stake holders. The challenge is to discern the interests of others and the value you bring.  Here the intranet can play a central role by helping all to locate and connect with others based on context, competencies and interests. A simple personal bio providing contact information (how to reach you), a list of your current interests (what you wish to learn more about) and your competencies (where you feel comfortable to help others solve problems or increase their learning) can do wonders for knowledge sharing.
To practice knowledge sharing for innovation, here are some suggestions:
Seek points of interest with others-- e.g. hobbies, religion, values, politics, volunteer activities
Bring a gift (an article, a contact) or share an opportunity (a lecture, a workshop)
Continue the exchange, keep the conversation going
Work to derive common meaning through questions, definitions, explanations, examples
Look for additional opportunities to share and additional people to engage in a conversation
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This page was last modified on 01/11/2004 .