Unlocking the hidden knowledge for high performance

Knowledge plays a significant role in high-performance. Companies bank on the knowledge of people who build it. Capturing and using the knowledge of people gained through routine work and association with customers is not an easy task. A lot of companies make it their business to build tools for knowledge management. Routine practices within the company is a reflection of the shared knowledge and value system – the culture of the company. Practices evolve through applied knowledge of people in the company at all levels.

When companies focus on current actions and outcomes heavily, they tend to achieve results as expected. At the same time, the company and its employees tend to develop selective attention. People tend to ignore adjacencies, other possibilities and upsetting disruptions in their business. The knowledge acquired through experiences that is not routinely used becomes hidden, locked. These nuggets have to be unlocked for higher performance and business sustainability.

Unlocking the hidden knowledge within the company should be a key priority for business leaders to remain on top-of-the-game, to remain relevant in the changing dynamics of the market. One of the ways to carry out is to involve a cross-section of people in solving critical business problems and identifying new possibilities with the current resources and capabilities of the organization. Encouraging open-innovation and democratizing innovation within the company helps in routinely unlocking the hidden knowledge.

At an individual level too, you develop selective attention. The significant amount of knowledge you gain through work gets locked. Unlock this hidden knowledge periodically by participating in work away from your comfort zone. Volunteer in other functional areas. Challenge yourself in discovering and proposing new ideas and ways-of-working. Make the best use of it.

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How to learn from things that you already know

It is nearly impossible for people to learn what they think they already know. Once you feel you know everything about something, you’re done. If you open the possibilities of knowing another side of what you think you know, new perspectives show-up.

When you apply what you know, you experience. All valid knowledge comes through experience. When you think you know a subject, a trick or a way to get things done, try if it really works. Acquired knowledge through studies, other’s discovery and teachings, most of the time stay as surface coats. As with tough coats, they create a barrier to let new perspectives enter. This also makes them stale.

Try to learn from what you think you already know. The best way is to adopt them into your routine. Once you start using it routinely, the depth of what you know becomes visible. Gives you an opportunity to go deeper, add fresh perspectives and soon master the art. Imagine that your vessel-of-wisdom is always half-empty. Keep an open mind even with things you feel you are a master. Exploring further begins with an open mind. Your craft becomes remarkable.

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Servant leadership in the knowledge era

We have been trained to respect and follow those who are knowledgeable. At work, there was a time when many shrewd men mustered power through their knowledge, earned over years of learning and practice. Several folks became leaders through the knowledge they used, to serve others. The first generation of communication networks ensured the fall of the barrier to information access. The second generation of networks over internet enabled free access to information. Digital tools of today make learning, building and applying knowledge on any subject, very seamless. In this context, how valuable is Knowledge and those knowledgeable?

Traditional “top-of-the-pyramid” leadership that generally involves the accumulation and exercise of the power is becoming irrelevant with the abundance of knowledge and knowledge-workforce. This, in turn, is pushing – sharing of power, putting the needs of others first and adoption of inclusive business models. Servant leadership is taking center-stage without any fanfare.

Any business or project you are part of today will have a significant part of knowledge-based work. All stakeholders and customers are also equally knowledgeable or have access to relevant knowledge. Note the frustration of doctors working with patients who meet them with own knowledge acquired through online research and public opinion about their possible disease, conditions, and course of action. To be on the top-of-your-practice, you have to quickly assess how much of knowledge the person already possesses and build/ correct the same to help them with the problem they are facing. Practice servant leadership more actively to be effective in this free-knowledge-era.

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How to make knowledge management work

Knowledge Management is expected to help a company navigate through future course of action via the collection of working bits from the past. At an individual level, knowledge acquired through training and experience is useful only when applied successfully in a practical context of the profession. University trained doctors are expected to translate their academic or theoretical knowledge of medical discipline into the practice of their clinic/ hospital. It works. Else, you cannot progress further in your career or profession. Even-though, it may not be well structured, you have an internal system that makes you learn and adopt.

At work, knowledge is expected to transfer successfully between departments, teams and people doing different work in different parts of the organisation and many a times – at different points of time. Since transfer over organisational interfaces and boundaries often fail to materialise, the need of managing that comes to play. You will see a lot of attempts to make this work through deployment of technology interventions – tools, techniques and methods. Supplemented by awards, rewards and recognitions. But, you will also notice that most of these become elements of tick-in-the-box, very quickly. Knowledge management slowly turns into Archives Management.

Making the knowledge/ learning systematically transferred into day-to-day practice is the key to increase the efficiency of transfer. Instead of building a knowledge management system and several costly interventions, change the way-of-working routinely. As and when new and important knowledge/learning is acquired/discovered. If the piece of learning can not be translated to an application in the routine work, chances of that fading away even in the memory of the system is very high.

The value of the knowledge is in the application of it in practice. Devise and support a knowledge-movement. The one that helps transfer of knowledge into routine practice without the-management. This will make knowledge management work for you.

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