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Discover the different types of knowledge sharing and learn how to choose the one best suited to your company's unique needs
Knowledge is one of the most valuable assets in a company. However, the way we share knowledge in a company is often taken for granted. We tend to view knowledge sharing as a uniform, one-size-fits-all process, when in fact, it's far more nuanced.
There are several types of knowledge and ways of sharing them. Each type has its strengths, and understanding these can help you identify the one that best suits your organization.
In this article, we'll break down the different types of knowledge that exist in a company and discuss the most effective ways to share each type.
Our goal is to provide a comprehensive guide to help you understand the dynamics of knowledge sharing in organizations and select the approach that best fits your company's unique needs.
There are several types of knowledge sharing systems, each with its unique set of characteristics, benefits, and challenges.
A common question is, "What are the 7 types of knowledge?" To answer this and provide a detailed understanding of each, we'll be discussing them individually in the following sections. Each type will include its use case, pros and cons, and how Assembly supports its sharing within your organization.
This type of knowledge sharing involves the exchange of information that is easily articulated, captured, stored, and accessed. Explicit knowledge sharing relies heavily on straightforward and easy-to-understand content.
Let’s say your company has a step-by-step guide on filing expense reports. Sharing that guide with the team is an example of explicit knowledge sharing. The knowledge is clear, the process is well-defined, it’s easy to communicate, and everyone can understand it.
Pros: Explicit knowledge sharing within organizations makes onboarding and training smooth. It helps in setting standard procedures across the organization.
Cons: Its simplicity can sometimes miss out on real-life complexity. It may not always capture the nuances that come with experience.
How Assembly helps: Assembly supports explicit knowledge sharing by offering features like document management and collaborative editing tools that allows your team to create, update, and share this kind of knowledge with ease.
Implicit knowledge sharing refers to sharing information that is not directly expressed but can be inferred from the context or related information. It involves reading between the lines and making connections that are not immediately obvious.
For instance, if your company has an unwritten rule that everyone works late on Fridays to meet weekly targets, that's implicit knowledge. It's not formally stated anywhere, but team members understand and abide by it over time.
Pros: Implicit knowledge sharing can create a unique company culture as it relies on shared experiences and mutual understanding.
Cons: It can be challenging for new employees to grasp as it often requires time, experience, and observation. Also, crucial information may sometimes be overlooked if it's not directly communicated.
How Assembly helps: Assembly can indirectly assist with implicit knowledge sharing. Features such as team chat and discussion forums can encourage communication and social interaction and provide an environment where implicit knowledge can be more naturally understood and absorbed.
Tacit knowledge sharing is the transfer of personal, experiential knowledge that's hard to express verbally or in writing. This kind of knowledge is context-specific and often difficult to share.
Let's imagine an experienced chef in a restaurant. Their unique cooking techniques or their knack for creating a new recipe are examples of tacit knowledge. These skills, honed over the years, are hard to capture in a cookbook.
Pros: Tacit knowledge offers your company a unique edge. It's hard to imitate and gives your team a competitive advantage.
Cons: Unfortunately, tacit knowledge can be challenging to document or share. And, if an employee with a wealth of tacit knowledge leaves, that knowledge may leave with them.
How Assembly helps: Assembly offers features that promote interaction and mentorship. They include one-on-one meetings, DMs, and group discussion boards for employees to share their experiential knowledge.
Procedural knowledge sharing refers to the transfer of knowledge needed to perform a particular task. In other words, it's about sharing the 'how-to' of specific actions or procedures in the workplace.
Think of a team member who's excellent at using a specific software tool. Their understanding of the best ways to use that tool is procedural knowledge. If they create a guide or a tutorial for others to follow, that's procedural knowledge sharing.
Pros: Procedural knowledge sharing provides a consistent way of doing things, ensuring a unified quality of work across your team.
Cons: However, procedural knowledge might limit creative problem-solving or innovation, as it tends to standardize the ways tasks are performed.
How Assembly helps: Assembly offers a platform to store and share step-by-step guides, manuals, and procedural documents. This allows your team to access this 'how-to' knowledge easily when they need it.
Declarative knowledge sharing is when you transfer “what is” information. It focuses on facts, data, or specific information that explains something but doesn’t show you how to use it.
For example, if your company has specific guidelines on remote work, such as the days remote work is allowed, sharing these facts with your team would be declarative knowledge sharing.
Pros: This type of knowledge sharing ensures everyone has the same understanding of facts and rules.
Cons: It may lack context or depth as it focuses on straightforward information.
How Assembly helps: Assembly is a great tool for declarative knowledge sharing. You can use it to post announcements or updates, ensuring everyone is on the same page regarding the latest facts or rules.
A posteriori knowledge sharing involves sharing lessons learned from specific experiences or observations. Unlike tacit knowledge, which is hard to articulate, a posteriori knowledge can be communicated more clearly because it's based on specific experiences.
Let's say a team member has discovered a new approach to closing deals after several successful sales. If they share their methods with the team, that's a posteriori knowledge sharing.
Pros: This knowledge is practical and grounded in reality. It can offer invaluable insights based on real-life experiences. It includes lessons learned from past projects or customer feedback.
Cons: As it's derived from personal experiences, this type of knowledge can be highly subjective and difficult to analyze.
How Assembly helps: Assembly supports a posteriori knowledge sharing with features like project retrospectives, discussion groups, and feedback tools.
A priori knowledge sharing focuses on the exchange of universally true principles or theories. This is not tied to specific facts or personal experiences, which differentiates it from declarative knowledge.
Take, for instance, discussing general principles of good leadership during a team meeting. These principles are universally true, unlike sharing a specific fact like "Our company was founded in 2010," which would be declarative knowledge sharing.
Pros: This type of knowledge sharing is instrumental in creating a shared understanding of universal principles or theories within a team.
Cons: However, this type of knowledge might seem too abstract for some situations, especially since no one situation is the same.
Each of these knowledge types has its place in a company, and choosing which to focus on depends on your specific needs and circumstances.
Becoming a knowledge sharing organization is hard work, and so is choosing the best knowledge-sharing strategy for your company. Your choice can have a big impact on teamwork, problem-solving, and your organization's overall success. Here are six key factors to consider when making this choice:
The way your organization is set up and how it operates can determine which type of knowledge sharing is best.
For instance, hierarchical organizations have a clear chain of command, from the top management down to the lower-level employees. In such an environment, explicit knowledge sharing often works best. Why? Because this approach centers on well-defined, easy-to-understand information that leaves little room for interpretation.
In contrast, flat organizations tend to favor tacit and implicit knowledge sharing, promoting learning from colleagues' experiences.
The type of work performed also determines which type of knowledge sharing is most suitable. Roles involving technical skills and procedures often benefit from explicit and procedural knowledge sharing.
Example: Software development relies heavily on standard operating procedures and guidelines.
On the flip side, if your organization is involved in more creative or subjective fields, such as marketing, design, or innovation, then implicit, tacit, or even a posteriori knowledge sharing could be more effective. These fields require a high degree of personal insight, intuition, and individual creativity – things that are difficult to articulate or codify.
Example: Advertising agencies often conduct brainstorming sessions, a form of tacit knowledge sharing.
Recognizing that people have different learning styles is crucial. Some are visual learners, favoring diagrams, images, or videos. For them, explicit and declarative knowledge sharing often works well, presenting complex ideas visually for easier understanding.
Example: In the advertising industry, where visuals are key, explicit knowledge sharing with diagrams and images is widely used to convey ideas and strategies.
On the other hand, experiential learners gain the most from hands-on experiences or learning from others. These individuals typically respond to tacit and a posteriori knowledge sharing, gaining knowledge through actual experience.
Example: The hospitality industry often leverages tacit knowledge sharing, where employees learn by doing and observing their peers in action.
Industry norms and standards can affect the type of knowledge sharing. Highly regulated sectors often prefer explicit knowledge sharing in the form of precise guidelines and procedures.
Sometimes, this detailed documentation is required of them by laws and standards — like the IS0 9001:2015 which specifies requirements for an organization to demonstrate its ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and statutory requirements.
Example: Banks typically adopt explicit knowledge sharing, clearly outlining policies and procedures for compliance and consistency.
Your organization's size can influence the type of knowledge sharing that's most effective. Large corporations often rely more on explicit, procedural, and declarative knowledge sharing, standardizing processes across levels and reducing miscommunication.
Example: A multinational corporation might use explicit knowledge sharing for consistent customer service procedures.
In contrast, smaller companies and startups might find tacit and implicit knowledge sharing best for their flexible, often changing environments.
Example: A tech startup might use tacit knowledge sharing during project sprints, with developers learning from each other's coding techniques in real-time.
Currently, as many as 90% of companies are using e-learning software and online tools.
Your company's technology infrastructure affects the type of knowledge sharing you can implement. A robust tech infrastructure supports all knowledge sharing types, from explicit and declarative with sophisticated document management systems to tacit and implicit through collaborative tools.
Example: Companies with a strong tech infrastructure can use advanced document management systems for explicit knowledge sharing.
However, less technologically advanced companies might focus more on tacit and a posteriori knowledge sharing types, using face-to-face meetings or simple shared documents.
Example: Small businesses might use implicit knowledge sharing, leveraging basic tools like shared documents or regular team meetings.
Lastly, the level of expertise within your workforce plays a significant role in determining the most suitable knowledge sharing type. Companies with a higher proportion of experienced employees might lean towards tacit and implicit knowledge sharing. Their seasoned workers possess a wealth of unarticulated knowledge that can be transferred through collaboration and mentorship.
Example: A consulting firm with seasoned professionals might leverage tacit knowledge sharing, with junior consultants learning directly from seniors' insights and experiences.
Conversely, organizations with less experienced employees or high turnover rates might rely on explicit and procedural knowledge, providing clear guidelines, and processes to help newcomers get up to speed quickly.
Example: Fast-food chains often use procedural knowledge sharing, providing clear operational guidelines to newly hired staff.
Organizations frequently run across certain difficulties while promoting a culture of knowledge sharing. Here are four typical errors you should avoid:
Another example would be if they like videos but you only use text. They might find it hard to understand the information. So, pick a knowledge sharing type that your team likes. This way, they can easily understand and use the information.
For instance, the pandemic saw companies pivoting to collaboration tools that helped connect their teams from all over the world. In fact, collaboration software saw a 30% increase from 2019. This helps to ensure they still fit your company's current state and needs. If they don't, it's time to adjust and adapt.
Picking the right knowledge sharing method for your company involves a careful look at its structure, the type of work you do, what your team prefers, industry norms, the size of your company, and your tech setup. The goal is to have a balanced approach that supports ongoing learning and new ideas, while also steering clear of common stumbling blocks.
Remember, it's crucial to choose the right type of knowledge sharing for your company. Getting this right can improve training, boost innovation, and create a more collaborative workplace. But, every type of knowledge sharing has its challenges and benefits, and finding a balance that suits your company is important.
Assembly is here to help you find this balance and make the most out of your knowledge sharing practices. With features that facilitate all 7 forms of knowledge sharing (tangible and intangible), your team can create, update, and share information with no hassle whatsoever.
One feature to highlight is Assembly's recognition feature, which encourages a culture of appreciation and makes employees feel valued for their contributions.
So, don't wait any longer. Find out how Assembly can support your company's knowledge sharing needs. Schedule your demo here!
Learn how an effective intranet can transform your employee engagement, enhance communication & improve employee satisfaction.