Knowledge management initiatives will succeed only when people within the organization make the positive choice to contribute their knowledge, and to use knowledge to improve what they do.
The most important responsibility of corporate leaders is to influence people to satisfy their needs by sharing, adapting, and using knowledge to create new knowledge – that is, to do something with knowledge that will make a positive difference for oneself and one’s organization.
With this blog I am trying to briefly outlines a framework for understanding how people make those choices, and a guideline for influencing end users to contribute to and use knowledge systems
To create the knowledge environment where people make choices to contribute and to use/apply knowledge requires the following elements:
• An understanding of what drives people’s choices to share knowledge.
• An understanding that everyone’s “drivers” are different.
• Self-awareness throughout the organization of effective and ineffective knowledge behaviors.
• Use of encouraging behaviors to facilitate more effective contribution/use behaviors.
We need to develop a passion-based culture, and each team member should be challenged to remain congruent with the following three values in relationship with oneself, our clients, and our company:
• Integrity. Is what I’m doing congruent with my values and with the collective needs of myself, our clients, and the company?
• Responsibility. Do I do what I say I’m going to do? Do I live up to my commitments to other team members, clients, and the company? If I haven’t, what have I learned and what can I do differently going forward? Further, what consequences am I accountable to bear as a result of not being responsible?
• Self-awareness. What choices do I make, and why do I make them? Can I make more effective choices? How can I more effectively share with coworkers the knowledge of who I am and what I know?
What is motivating for one person is not for another. Leaders should communicate constantly to address each of the four needs, and build flexible systems for motivations and rewards. They banish fear from the workplace, lead by example, and honestly encourage participation, feedback, and the belief that employees and the organization can meet their needs simultaneously. Leaders should:
• Listen more than speak. People want to share when they’re truly listened to.
• Question more than explain. Explaining is the bane of most managers in their perceived role of “translating” what we do upward, downward, across, and outside the organizaiton. Explaining blocks the ability to understand others’ points of view and to learn.
• Move decision making down more than up. Expect employees to be responsible and acccountable for their behaviors and actions.
• Facilitate more than dictate. We can never do more than facilitate. In spite of what we dictate, people will still make their own choices.
Knowledge managers can also engender more effective behaviors by:
• Communicating about KM in multiple dimensions.
• Providing flexible rewards.
• Making knowledge more “explicit” by documenting and sharing.
Corporate investments (time as well as money) in KM systems and staffing are wasted if one doesn't start with people and behaviors. The first step in KM is to understand and influence people to make effective choices that will create new knowledge and innovation in their organizations.
For knowledge managers the challenge and opportunity is to banish fear from the workplace and create an environment of trust: be conscious about how often fear motivates decisions, and create a more stable, less reactive basis for moving organizations forward.