How to make sure your company isn't wasting its tacit knowledge?

How to make sure your company isn't wasting its tacit knowledge?

Blog
June 16, 2021

Understanding the difference between tacit and explicit knowledge
One of the main difficulties with accessing information and knowledge is that while some kinds of knowledge can be easily findable (explicit knowledge), there are also some forms of information that are much harder to review (tacit knowledge).
Explicit knowledge can be described as written down, codified, and structured knowledge. It is generally formalized as procedures, documents, notes, plans, etc. This includes data that can be stored, manipulated, updated, and shared with employees who need it. Acquiring and transmitting explicit knowledge is relatively natural and straightforward. It can be easily achieved because it is clearly formulated and articulated.
Tacit knowledge
is defined as knowledge gained from personal experience. By nature, tacit knowledge is trickier to verbalize. It refers to intangible information “understood” without being said. It is informal, learned with experience over time, and usually applied to a specific situation.

These characteristics make tacit knowledge really hard to spread and transmit in an efficient way.

Making your tacit knowledge accessible to all

1. Creating a culture of communication

Communicate the need and value of a collaborative culture. Sometimes, people won't share their ideas because they may think it is giving them an edge over colleagues. However, knowledge is power only if it is shared and spread.
Working in teams is a way to overcome this pitfall. Indeed, working closely with each other will give the employees the opportunity to see how valuable their knowledge can be.

2. Creating a culture that incentivizes knowledge-sharing

Provide incentives to employees who participate in knowledge sharing but don’t just provide incentives based on the amount contributed - otherwise, your knowledge base may end up being overloaded with non-value-adding contributions.  Having this system of checks and balances will also help cut down the possibility of errors and false truths.
Positively reinforcing people who share quality knowledge with others is also a good strategy. The incentive should not only rely on the amount of knowledge added or created but on its quality.
If your organization is rapidly growing, recruiting a knowledge manager responsible for managing the knowledge base should also be one of your priorities.

3. Creating opportunities to share knowledge

Monthly meetings, town halls, presentations, private interviews are all opportunities to explain orally tacit knowledge and make records of it.
During these sessions, ensuring that everyone is able to ask questions (even very simple ones so that people actually understand) will help turn that information from tacit to explicit.

4. Creating mentorship & training programs

What is key here, is helping recently onboarded employees to align with the company's goals and deliver work as expected. This means encouraging senior employees to train newbies through shadowing, informal conversations, mentorship programs.

Indeed tacit knowledge is mostly acquired through experience: this includes on-the-job shadowing, demos, and simulations. Employees have to witness how a job is done and perform it themselves to be able to reproduce it.

5. Fostering (virtual) workplace collaboration

Encourage virtual workplace collaboration will participate in developing the process of knowledge sharing. In this context, using collaborative software like Spot will help you create and optimize your tacit knowledge stack. With Spot, your team will be able to access knowledge in seconds, ask relevant colleagues if needed, and create (organically or not) important knowledge.

6. Documenting and backfilling tacit knowledge

Tacit knowledge is mostly transmitted either through verbal interactions or through Slack conversations on public channels. This leads knowledge to be lost 90% of the time because channels are noisy, not well structured, etc.
Therefore, how to clean and keep only relevant information stuck into Slack's mess?
The action required in such a case is to document and backfill this organically created knowledge. Spot will help you to efficiently store (in an automated manner) every piece of important information. This will help your organization to build a seamless knowledge base, thus improve your company productivity.

Turning your organization into a knowledge-oriented one will take some time, but this will also help your company to be up to 20% more productive.

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