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Knowledge Management is as much about people as the information

How do you define the asset value of the knowledge in your organisation?  That’s exactly what Lindsay Baker, a Knowledge Management (KM) Specialist, does.  Employed by a large organisation in the medical field, she is charged with getting information out of people’s heads and into an output that can be shared and used by the company.

“People in the organisation have tremendous knowledge, experience and wisdom,” she tells me over a cappuccino in their Johannesburg offices.  “It’s about identifying this knowledge and sharing it for the advancement of the organisation – that’s true knowledge management.”

In Lindsay’s view people are sometimes averse to sharing what they know.  “Some people feel threatened by it because they think their access to unique information is what makes them unmissable as an employee.  It’s about changing this mindset and getting them to understand that it’s about what’s good for the whole organisation, and that sharing the information and learning from others will make them more valuable as employees.”

In order to break down that resistance, Lindsay and her team rely on the very human characteristic of curiosity.  “We found that sharing information with people more openly has made employees more curious about aspects of the business that are not in their immediate scope,” she smiles.  “And it’s that curiosity that’s driving people to learn, adapt, change and share.  What makes it even more remarkable is that there is no incentive for KM in the company.  People share and learn because they are curious.”

A major success for the organisation was partnering non-executives with executives in order to share on a personal level.  And it’s about the person, not the role.  Lindsay explains that people thus collaborating will get together informally and share what they know in their individual capacity, thereby establish great relationships based on trust.  “Our flat structure allows us to do this fairly easily, but it’s important to remember that it’s about people, not the title they hold.”

Her advice for organisations who want to start capturing internal knowledge is:

  1. It’s a long-term game. People and culture change slowly, so keep at it and don’t give up too soon.
  2. Align to the business strategy.
  3. KM cannot be isolated, involve the whole enterprise in how they learn and apply the knowledge.
  4. Use what you already have. It’s not necessary to buy a fancy (read: expensive) system – use the systems and processes that you already have. Leverage those and look how to better utilise these tools or enablers.
  5. And never forget that it’s about the people. The relationships that people establish, and value will lead them to share.  And in that way, you can capture and use what they hold in their heads.

Lindsay Baker has been a consultant for nearly 8 years specializing in strategic projects. She started her career within IT projects and has since branched out focusing her efforts around governance and compliance within organizations. Lindsay has consulted in multiple disciplines in various sectors and has spent the last two years focusing on Knowledge Management specifically. She brings to the table a vast wealth of knowledge and experience, and is passionate about the SME sector.

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