Making Knowledge Work

March 7, 2014

The Culture of Knowledge

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — virginiahenry @ 6:33 pm

My job seems to have been keeping me away from lots of things, such as my blog and the wonderful LIKE programme of events (although I’m not going to miss the evening of crossword compilation on Wednesday 26 March)…….  So Adapta’s invitation to a workshop on “Knowledge mobilisation, collaboration tools and cake” gave me the chance to set work aside for an afternoon and learn something about how people in other organisations are working.

The most engaging presentation was Adam Pope’s.  He’s Senior Digital Librarian at Arup.  He’s lucky – it’s an impressive organisation, and its founder Ove Arup  was deeply committed to collaboration and team-working.  So committed that he used to sit in on interviews with all new candidates in the early days of Arup Group to make sure prospective Arup team members were the “right” kind of people.  He knew what he was looking for – not just proven talent and flair but an eagerness to collaborate, share knowledge and learn from others.

Such a leader has a profound impact on the culture of an organisation.  Arup, like the rest of us, need to use incentives and rewards to make sure knowledge is consistently shared and teams support, rather than compete, with one another.  But Adam and his colleagues have strong foundations to build on, thanks to Ove Arup.

It was interesting to hear, in the brief discussion period, some of the knowledge management (or ‘knowledge mobilisation’, as an Adapta Consultant called it) challenges people had:  from trying to find the best and most cost-effective IT solutions to support collaboration, to trying to persuade colleagues that consultation didn’t mean everyone should have direct influence over every organisational decision.  And from the difficulty of convincing front-line staff to engage with shared processes, to the challenge of asking people to discuss their failures as well as their successes.  None of them are new issues and, in my experience, none can be resolved without a culture of knowledge pervading the entire organisation.  Without the explicit requirement for everyone – from the CEO to the newest recruit – to see collaboration and knowledge-sharing as important elements of their role, effective KM can be subverted.

So if you want to nurture a culture of knowledge in your organisation next time you’re writing a job specification, or setting objectives or KPIs, or preparing for a performance review – make sure you include the essential elements: practical demonstrations of collaboration and knowledge-sharing.

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