Something is keeping your organization from sharing knowledge. You understand the benefits. You have the attention of your boss (and even your boss’s boss). The program just never seems to get traction. Your training is well attended, but your metrics are not showing a trend toward realizing the full value of your team’s knowledge.

We’ve talked about the three myths of knowledge management before. All three come down to a fundamental mistake. Most people think that knowledge sharing is a tool. It’s not. Knowledge sharing is a set of behaviors. Supported by defined practices. Enabled by a tool.

So the real challenge of knowledge sharing is changing behaviors. Knowledge sharing needs to be part of what we do every day. Dr. BJ Fogg has created a compelling formula for changing behavior. It divides behavioral changes into three areas.

In context of knowledge sharing, motivation is all about the team understanding the benefits of the practices and receiving the right incentives (performance measures, recognition, rewards). Ability is whether the team can find, enhance and author knowledge when they need to (without unreasonable effort). The trigger is all about making sure that the team uses knowledge when the need arises – that knowledge sharing is part of how team members do their work every day.

For the most part, the knowledge management industry has focused on only one of these three areas.

  • Motivation – communities of practice, interest groups, etc.
  • Ability – tool and processes
  • Trigger – process-oriented knowledge practices

The result is that few organizations understand that they have to have all three to effectively change behavior. Organizations try to address only one, with very mixed results.

Some focus on motivation.

  • Building short-term reward systems that work for a while
  • Creating buzz through elaborate launch events
  • Putting resources into one-time training

Others focus on ability.

  • Investing thousands or millions of dollars in a tool

Still others focus on the trigger.

  • Creating elaborate workflows that don’t make sense when they are put in front of the team

Results of these efforts are often inconsistent. Changing behavior requires effort in all three areas, together. You need to understand what triggers the need for knowledge, how it is captured, who improves it and how it becomes part of what we do every day. Practices help reinforce the trigger. Software gives your team the tools they need to effectively share knowledge. Rewards, performance measures and gamification can help the team understand why sharing knowledge is important.

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