My neighbor is getting ready for an exciting trip. He and several of his friends are hiking the Inca trail to Machu Picchu. He has been training for the trip for several months. He bought new hiking boots. He takes an hour-long hike (with me) every morning. He added weights to a backpack and hiked with it on his back. The demands of the Inca trail and the difference in altitude (we live slightly under sea level here in New Orleans) meant that he had to improve his hiking abilities.

For our teams to start sharing knowledge, they need to get in shape. They don’t just need motivation, they also need the ability to share knowledge. In most conversations about knowledge sharing, the discussion of ability starts and ends with a tool. A tool that makes it easy to find, enhance and share knowledge is critical to success. Unfortunately, a great tool alone is not a guarantee. As tool designers know well, this also means that the tool often shoulders the blame when knowledge sharing doesn’t take off.

  1. In most cases, the team needs several different things to get into knowledge sharing shape: Clear workflow maps are necessary. The team has to know when and how they add finding, enhancing and sharing knowledge into their work.
  2. Training is a must. Classroom training isn’t required, but the team needs to know how and why their day-to-day work will change. They also need to learn how to create content people can access and use.
  3. Metrics are critical, particularly key performance indicators (KPIs). The measures have to support knowledge-sharing practices.
  4. A tool is important. It doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated, but it has to help integrate knowledge sharing into how the team does its work.
  5. Time and space are paramount. Integrating knowledge-sharing practices into the team’s work won’t happen in a day or a week. It requires consistent practice. Without the time to practice, the team will go back to the way it did business before knowledge sharing.

As you design your knowledge-sharing program, keep in mind that the team needs several factors to change their behaviors. A combination of tools, communications, measures, and time will give the team the ability to make the change.

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