Culture Matters

A persistent theme of this blog is that when it comes to doing knowledge management right, culture matters. In fact, there are days when I’d argue that having the right organizational culture in place is as important (if not more important) than having the best technology. You can buy great tech tools, but if you have a culture that does not encourage knowledge sharing, those tools will never yield the results you intend.

Unfortunately, no matter how complicated choosing and implementing technology can be, shaping and cultivating organizational culture is harder. And few of us are trained to think about culture in any meaningful way, much less actually change it.
What’s the optimal culture for an organization focused on knowledge sharing? At a minimum, a culture that (i) promotes the collective over the individual — a strong sense of “the firm,” (ii) has either a flat hierarchy or bosses who are confident enough to allow their colleagues to participate fully in idea generation and implementation, (iii) grows out of a shared sense of enterprise or mission. If this seems impossible in the context of your law firm, take heart from Jordan Furlong’s post on the positive trend he sees in law firm culture. According to him, the focus on the individual hot shot lawyer has taken a huge toll on law firms (both culturally and economically) and there will be a swing back to a fuller sense of the collective, of the firm. Let’s hope he is right because when that happens, knowledge sharing should become much easier to realize.