Knowledge sharing is the primary, most basic knowledge practice - without a sharing ethos, much of KM promise fails. So what exactly is knowledge sharing all about?
It starts with a perception of self-worth, a feeling that you have something to offer, something of value to add or a new idea to present. This confidence is closely tied to your identity and the reason why trust, relationship and reciprocity are the key to enabling knowledge flows.
How can we share?
There are formal avenues such as lessons learned, after action reviews, learning histories, project reviews, meeting notes and more. Of equal, (perhaps greater) value, are the less formal exchanges such as mentoring, coaching, copying, observing, ethnography, dialog and the proverbial water cooler conversations where heuristics are swapped, stories get told, exceptions are handled and solutions are given or explored.
Have you considered these practices?
Sharing expertise as patterns
Patterns focus on solutions to repetitive issues or combination of forces and store valuable experiences in a very compact representation. Writing patterns encourages negotiation of value and meaning, pattern names give fast access to useful knowledge and help to clarify communication in teams. The problem with re-invention is often not a lack of communication but the lack of an appropriate medium for transferring key knowledge. Patterns are artifacts, not theory laden constructs, and are not tied to any particular discipline or methodology. Their value comes from social consensus and trial by reuse.
The blackboard: a shared information space
Consider the wall map in a busy 'war room' with its colored pins showing spatial patterns, remember the blackboard (now it's more likely to be white) with a to-do list, the current concerns and issues or useful contacts.
- The blackboard is an affordance promoting self-organization, short term coordination and memory
People, documents, meetings and other activities often serve as blackboards, interfaces and boundary objects.
Crafting joint concept maps
Concept mapping provides a highly visual way to show relationships between core ideas. Combined with the AHP (Analytical Hierarchy Process)the maps may be used to build qualitative models, elicit gaps, test assumptions and check for consensus. The knowledge sharing advantage is to invent best practices for interpreting and annealing concept graphs. The promise of electronic whiteboards is to offer us a new way to anneal pictures rather than text. A graphic introduces spatial reasoning, allowing qualitative visual clustering, distance metrics and intuitive affinity measures.
Although it is nothing more than a feeling right now, I believe there is much value in 'seeing' how we interpret graphics, looking for ways to elicit group consensus and including diversity. Developing a practice and a language for 'looking' at graphics is an important component of knowledge building in groups.
- MGTaylor KS practice: http://www.knowherestore.com/methods/knowledgesharing.html
Sharing metaphors & stories
Sharing knowledge is comparable to sharing your lighted candle: you have the opportunity to share your flame with others who have unlit candles, increasing the visibility for everyone and losing nothing yourself or you may keep your candle to yourself and get by with a feeble flickering single candle which is eventually going to burn out anyway. By sharing the fire with others, we enable others to keep the fire going and grow it, benefiting everyone.
Stories are a natural way we garner attention, pass along wisdom and share experiences.
Inquiry and reflection as sharing
Sharing is more than access, it is helping others make meaning and obtain understanding. Deeper sharing is possible if the domain is partitioned, the core concepts are negotiated, the environment is scanned and the feedback is shared in community. There needs to be reflection around joint meaning and reciprocity to have quality sharing.
- Denham's article: http://www.smithweaversmith.com/Ksharing.htm
Possessing a reduced, very focussed terminology, where everyone understands the meaning and applies the right term, has profound advantages for companies when they come to apply search engines, construct navigation aids, use visualization tools, implement agent technologies or index their electronic documents. Benefits: faster and more relevant retrieval, more effective communication, meaning templates promote alignment, ease mentoring, reduce training costs. Ontologies are reuse strategies applied to language.
Sharing as commentary and annotation
Blogging where you add commentary to shared links, point to insightful remarks and ideas of other bloggers and highlight views that interest you is an emergent form of sharing. When this is combined with RSS feeds, categorization, specialist search engines and blog rings it becomes a powerful genre for sharing.
So then how exactly do you share your knowledge?