One constant challenge for knowledge managers in any organization is how to build support among your front line colleagues so that they adopt knowledge sharing behaviors and use your KM systems and tools. Some knowledge managers try various forms of marketing. Others simply harass their colleagues with pleas for better behavior. Still others co-opt senior management to provide incentives for engagement. And yet, too many report that it remains difficult to create and sustain an organizational culture that supports knowledge management.
Rather than pursuing these head-on methods, perhaps we should take a leaf out of Emily Dickinson’s book and try a slanted approach. For example, a recent post by Jon Katzenbach and Zia Khan in the Harvard Business Review Blog discusses the power of Spreading Critical Behaviors “Virally“. In this case, the managers in question did not attack the problem head-on. Instead, they identified other managers who were exhibiting the right behaviors and put them in touch with their counterparts:
If most other supervisors were not doing what these few knew worked, it was high time to do something about it. But their strong recommendation was counter-intuitive. They argued for a kind of “viral” cross-organizational exposure and interaction. No more programmatic confusion. Instead, simply get groups of supervisors together with respected counter-parts to share experiential `tricks of the trade’ in ways that would promote self-discovery. Simply put, set up small `cells of energy and insight’ — that is, credible people telling credible stories of how to get people emotionally committed to the few behaviors that matter most.
In short, they let the converted preach to the nonbelievers.
Can you identify folks in your organization who are exhibiting helpful knowledge management behaviors. Can you match them up with skeptics and let the enthusiasts tell their story? If you can, you may well create a grassroots movement towards better knowledge management.
[Hat tip to Euan Semple for pointing out this HBR blog post.]
[Photo Credit: KiltBear]