16th century:
For the lack of an ability to share knowledge, an empire was lost.

On November 15th 1532, 168 Spanish conquistadors arrived in Peru. Waiting for them are 80,000 Inca troops. Yet, within 24 hours, more than 7,000 Inca warriors are slaughtered and the Emperor was captured.

How could that be? Lack of knowledge-sharing.

12 years earlier, Hernán Cortés had faced similarly overwhelming odds against the massive army of the Aztec empire — whom he managed to defeat. The written accounts of the tactics he used to defeat the Aztec army were published in a series of popular handbooks.

The Spaniards that arrived in Peru had read the handbooks and discussed the tactics. While the Mayan civilization of Central America had invented a form of written communication, the Incas didn’t. They were doomed to repeat the same mistakes since they had no way to learn from the experience of the Mayans.

For a lack of knowledge-sharing, an entire continent was colonized.

18th century:
Technology augments people.

In 1768, a Swedish economist named Johan Westerman tried to find out the reason why Swedish manufacturers (shipyards and ceramics) were only half as efficient as their British and Dutch counterparts.

His conclusion?

…not the machines, but the human competence to organize machines and men, to know what products to produce, and how to make customers happy with them.

In other words, he found that using the latest technology alone didn’t give 18th century manufacturers a competitive advantage. It was teaching workers how to make full use of the tools at hand and managers that knew how to organize production around their customer’s needs. 250 years ago!

21st century:

Big chunks of your most expensive employees’ time is wasted recreating things someone has already dealt with before.

28% of a knowledge worker’s time is wasted looking for internal information or trying to track someone who has that information. If you add the time wasted processing e-mail (one of the worst forms of knowledge-sharing still in existence), that number jumps to 48%.

How big a problem is this?

Since 1998, 70% of all jobs created in the US have been knowledge workers. Globally, there are 230+ million knowledge workers — about 9% of the global workforce — but we account for a disproportionate 27% of the global total employment costs.

Want one of the fastest ways to get improved productivity and improve employee engagement and improve the customer experience?

Make people want to share knowledge and improve it every time they interact with it. Put processes and leadership systems in place that enable this to happen. Augment it with technology.

This is why we created Klever. We believe for knowledge-sharing to stick individuals have to improve knowledge at every touch, supported by organizational best practices that are enabled by technology.

Clients have seen improvements of 30-300% in 3 months, all with the people and technology they already have in place.

Call to Action:

If you’d like to see our analysis of what 745 professionals around the world think their organization’s state of knowledge-sharing readiness is, check out the Klever Knowledge Benchmark 2015.


16th century example from Guns, Germs and Steel:

21st century example from McKinsey Global Institute:

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