The 5 barriers to knowledge management

Ah, we know what you’re thinking. “Knowledge management is overly technical, it’s not for me or my team. We just want to collaborate and share stuff together.” Not so fast, cowboy.

If you are sharing links or information via email, you’re doing KM. If you are writing articles on your company’s wiki, that’s also knowledge management. See what we mean?

The thing is, KM doesn’t have to be painful. In fact, it should be quite the opposite – knowledge management will help you and your organization be more efficient. It’s a matter of setting a process, selecting the right tool(s) and communicating your intentions with your people. Building the habit may be tricky in the beginning, yet the rewards are well worth it: increased productivity, higher engagement, less time wasted, just to name a few.

However, more often than not, people fall into one or more traps – and the whole KM process is compromised. Here’s what to avoid to ensure your knowledge management initiatives are successful.

It's a trap!

1. Lack of a clear ROI

Although tons of white papers, research documents and articles over the web will give you stats and figures, actual ROI depends on many variables and is difficult to measure, therefore hard to sell to management. Perhaps you will find that “KM lowers time spent searching for files by 9.33%” (sorry, we just made that up!), but each organization is unique, so you may experience different results.

Instead, draft some objectives that you hope to achieve through a specific knowledge management process. Suggest some key performance indicators (KPI) that you would like to measure and start out small, as a pilot project. Run your experiment and compare numbers, analyze your KPIs. This will help you show the value of KM to management.

2. Resistance to change

Depending on where you are now regarding KM, properly managing knowledge may require small changes (like getting a tool to support it) or a complete revamp of your organizational culture. Overcoming resistance to change can be a painful and lengthy process, we feel you in this one. Get your opinion leaders involved early on to champion the initiative, and communicate as much as possible with your people to ease their fears. The more you talk about the change and the more you involve your colleagues, the less scary it becomes. Hopefully, this can be an opportunity to further instill a culture of innovation within your organization.

In fact, at Crowdbase, we believe that change is good, and that it should be treasured. Our CEO bought each and every one of us a copy of the infamous motivational book “Who Moved My Cheese?”, so that we can understand why change should be embraced.

You see, change is always an opportunity to adapt and do great things, so don’t let resistance take that away from you. Enjoy it – and savour it!

3. The irritating tendency to transform KM into IT projects

A culture of sharing what matters to your organization won’t be “achieved” by a project manager with a 500 000$ budget and a 6 months schedule for software development and server setup.

"Project Manager"

In fact, many companies are doing great with very simple KM processes in place – just having a proper folder/file-naming convention and planning frequent meetups can do the trick for some! Allowing employees to take time to discuss various subjects and getting higher management to be more transparent is a good way to show a desire to change the culture. Buying computers or more server space is meaningless.

So what you need to remember is that KM works when you focus on establishing a simple process that’s embraced by everyone – it’s not about turning the whole endeavour into a costly IT project.

4. Ruining KM with a bad tool

As more people start sharing more stuff, you might want to start thinking about getting a tool that will make it easier for them to collaborate and find information quickly.

Imagine you’re seeing great progress towards a culture of sharing important content, critical information and learning. Teams who once worked in silos now see value in collaborating. Departments even communicate with each other! Impressive. But soon, email and other methods will show their limits. The sales document you received last week is buried in your inbox – but you need it stat! Once you start sharing knowledge often and with many players, it’s probably best to get a real tool that will suit your needs.

Involve people in the selection process to ease adoption and please (please!) try to not set your sights on some horrible piece of software straight out of 1998 that nobody wants to use. Outdated tools are great to hold outdated knowledge. Look for tools that can be deployed easily, with great UI/UX, and that are simple to use.

We’ve covered this before, so if you’re in the process of picking a KM solution for your team, we highly suggest you give our previous posts a quick read to learn how to introduce a new tool in the workplace (part 1) (part 2).

5. Lack of Accessibility

KM is most useful (and thus helps with the ROI) if knowledge is available exactly when needed. Make knowledge accessible anywhere, anytime. Be it on the web, on your mobile devices, over a chat network. The possibilities are endless. Just ensure access to your knowledge is convenient and simple or your people will give up very quickly, thus effectively killing your KM initiative.

Y U NO WORK?

Don’t despair – knowledge management can be done properly and it will help your organization’s bottom line in the long run. Avoid falling in the above traps and you’ll do great!

So, tell us, which of these barriers have you experienced in your organization before? How did you navigate around them? What worked when trying to successfully implement KM processes?

How to ensure learning does NOT bore your team to death

Corporate training is a more practical expression that refers to “organizational learning” – a term most of us have heard either at work or in a classroom. We suspect you may have cringed upon reading it, since it brings back awful memories of those excruciatingly long multiple choice e-learning tests. Or perhaps it reminds you of the dreadfully boring in-class lectures you had to sit through. You know, the kind that was so bad that you actually wished you were back at your desk working? Yeah, those. Shudder.

And the worst part? You probably don’t even remember what you learned at those corporate training sessions, much less applied it to the job or shared the main takeaways with people on your team.

Get us out of here!This is not what corporate training should result in. Zzzz.

Organizational learning – a necessary evil?

In its report on Corporate Learning, Deloitte highlights that businesses are focused on ensuring they provide their employees with the skills needed to keep up with the fast pace of innovation. The report highlights that in 2012, annual spending on corporate learning increased by 12% from the year before.

Businesses know they need to invest in their employees so they can keep enhancing their skills and, more importantly, provide them with the knowledge they need to keep innovating and improve performance.

So why does organizational learning have to be so boring (and expensive)? Well truth is, it doesn’t! In fact every company, business or team can start today – and no need to spend tons of dollars on the technology or to hire someone to do the job. It’s all about attitude and fostering a sense of community within your organization.

START WITH YOUR PEOPLE – Get them to share their knowledge and create a culture of learning

The fact is, your colleagues are one of the best resources for useful and critical knowledge, which they have gathered from their own experiences on the job. Your organization needs to create an environment that encourages knowledge sharing and fosters a culture of learning that everyone can benefit from.

Google understands and embraces this idea, because they have created a perk called “Googler to Googler”, where an employee will present in a teaching role to his or her colleagues. The beauty of this employee-to-employee learning perk is that it encourages a culture of learning. By allowing employees to leverage their own expertise, they get to choose what they feel is important to teach their colleagues.

In this case, the teacher is one of your peers, not an outsider who may not have the same understanding of the challenges you face on a daily basis. He or she intimately knows the hurdles you face; they can relate to your experiences on the job, and as a result, will probably share relevant insight that will make your ears perk up!

It is an amazing concept if you think about it – and we highly suggest you try to replicate it. You could even take it one step further and put a camera in the room, record or stream the session and share it with the rest of the organization. That way, you can get more feedback and questions. People may even develop their own responses.

In fact, this is exactly what happened at The Cheesecake Factory, when they created a video-learning portal for employees to show how to accomplish certain tasks on the job well. They struck the perfect balance between using the right technology and rules to successfully empower their employees to increase knowledge sharing within the organization. As a result, the Cheesecake Factory video-learning portal went viral with its employees. If you’d like to learn more about their initiative, you can view a presentation by Jeff Stepler, The Cheesecake Factory’s VP of Organizational Engagement, that includes screenshots of the portal.

SHARE STORIES – Talk about that moment when things went wrong with a customer, or what you did to clinch that deal, or how you saved the company some money. CREATE a community where you can tell your story, listen to others and interact over your experiences.

With the technology available today, it is relatively inexpensive and easy to create communities, groups or forums where employees can share their best practices or lessons learned. These groups are great informal social learning tools that employees can use to share experiences and help their colleagues uncover hidden gems of knowledge, discovered from their exploits on the job. Employees can use these forums for storytelling and sharing “war stories.”

By using technology tools, these communities can reach audiences far and wide and provide your colleagues (who may not all be in one place) a way to connect and share specialized knowledge with each other. It is not just about sharing their experiences with their peers; individuals can also receive feedback, guidance, encouragement that will not only help increase knowledge sharing, but also promote a culture of learning.

Sharing stories is easier than ever, thanks to technology

For example, if Tom in the Sydney office sees a story posted by Josh from the Toronto office in their company forum about how his strategy and sales process for a specific industry helped get clients, maybe Tom can tweak it and try to replicate Josh’s success. Tom may even reach out directly to Josh, a colleague he has never met due to geographic restrictions, to arrange some one-on-one time and get some feedback on his own ideas.

With an online community, two colleagues who may never have connected are able to interact, share ideas and learn from one another. Imagine the sheer impact on your organization!

What if a sales rep applying his colleague’s best practices was able to close more deals? Or if a customer support agent could answer more users and resolve helpdesk tickets faster due to a more experienced colleague’s tips and tricks? In both cases, it is a win-win situation for the organization.

Stories connect people. By sharing those experiences with others in your organization, their power can be leveraged and your successes may be replicated.

How are you encouraging your team to share their knowledge and tell stories to encourage organizational learning? What tools, processes or methods have worked? Tried something and failed? Tell us about it! Share your stories here with your comments below or tweet us @Crowdbase.

How to introduce a new tool in the workplace (part 2)

Last week, we shared some tips to help you overcome resistance to change in the workplace. Turns out, there are a more things you can do to prevent reluctance to adopt a new tool at the office.

You’re in luck, as we have further suggestions to help you be more efficient in implementing new ways, software or tools to get work done. We find that the key is to use psychology in your favour in order to get your colleagues to transition to the new tool. You also need to emphasize on the bottom line and benefits for the organization; this is especially important to entice higher management to be open to trying new things.

We understand it’s easier said than done, so here are a couple of tricks we still have up our sleeve to assist you in your endeavour.

It’s OK to admit that there is a better way

Unwillingness to acknowledge that current processes or tools are ineffective or could be improved is a major red herring. If you can’t get your peers to recognize that what you’re doing is not optimal, it might be difficult to get them to change their ways.

So why not get them involved from the beginning? Set a short meeting to discuss current work processes and tools. Promise them that they won’t be judged for sharing their opinions, and try to evaluate the situation objectively, from all angles.

Use this as an opportunity to identify what could be improved in your workflow. Then, brainstorm on solutions. Perhaps your colleagues will have even better ideas than what you had in mind. Being solution-driven will get everyone in the right mindset to try new things that could improve their performance and contribution at work.

A new tool is not a punishment

Often times, people are wary of using a new tool, because they are afraid it could be used against them by management. Indeed, they might see new apps, software or operating procedures as a threat – another way for the boss to control or critique their work.

Positive Punishment?

Be very honest with your team, and make it clear to them that you are not introducing a reporting tool (unless you are; then, it is especially important to be transparent about your intentions). Explain what the tool is, and what it does. Show your people how it will improve productivity. Make them understand that you are trying to implement this new tool to help the team work better and to positively impact their flow.

Demonstrate how productivity will be enhanced

It’s not that easy to quantify incremental productivity improvements to justify the use of a new tool. Cutting down an hour of work into 10 minutes is a no brainer, but cutting 15 minutes into 10 minutes is much less tangible. Spend some time with the tool and a timer and make sure to be able to quantify the benefit. It will sell way more easily.

Also, it is often convenient to show how the tool will help in context than to vaguely insist that it will save you time. Explain how a specific task will take X minutes less to do, and you’ll get people interested. Numbers help people stay grounded in reality and understand the real potential behind the tool you’re trying to implement. This is why you need to spend some time analyzing and quantifying benefits: to get people intrigued and eager to try that new tool!

The tool must NOT get in the way

Many tools are intrusive and user UNfriendly. They have a steep learning curve and force people to take the time to learn, understand and adapt their behaviour to the tool. This is why tools that provide a bad user experience are almost never adopted across an entire company. It takes too much time and effort to get involved, and the returns might just not seem worth it to the average user.

Bloatware, sigh.

However, simple tools that make your job easier or that save you time in getting tasks done will tend to come out on top. Users will naturally flock to them in droves. This is why Skype or Dropbox have been successful from the beginning, whereas bloated intranet tools are struggling to reach moderate adoption levels.

Create a habit, but steer clear of the carrot and stick approach

In order to start using a new product, people have to learn how to use it. Learning can be difficult. It also takes time so as a result, most people shy away from it.

The best way to keep up with a new system -and to ensure it benefits your team- is to use it. Again and again. People need to form the habit of coming back to your tool regularly. We understand that it may be difficult at first; after all, habit formation is hard (no wonder there is an entire self-help industry built around it!), especially when motivation is lacking.

That is one angry carrot!

As the instigator of the project, you need to show leadership by example. Encourage your team to use your new tool and congratulate them when they show initiative. But don’t fall into the trap of the carrot and stick approach; as several experts have pointed out, it simply doesn’t work. Punishing your colleagues will simply make them loathe the new tool even more. And rewards? They tend to make people jealous, which might (slowly but surely) wreak havoc on your team.

Instead, set expectations, build trust and give your people honest feedback. Show your colleagues how the tool can help them feel better about the way they work and improve what they contribute to the organization.

Good job!

We hope our tips help you and your team successfully implement a new tool or procedure at the office. Keep in mind that these pointers can be applied to just about anything involving a change of behaviour; it’s not only about introducing new software. New project, new member on your team or new way to do things – these can all face some level of resistance. Hopefully now you’ll be able to expertly maneuver around those setbacks to bring your team to the next level.

Did we forget anything? Do you have any other tricks to share with us? Or perhaps suggestions on what NOT to do? After all, we can learn from failure just as much as we can from success! So, what’s your secret to implementing change?

How to introduce a new tool in the workplace (part 1)

At Crowdbase, our awesome team is comprised of people who have various background and life experiences. Over lunch one day, we were discussing our past work experiences and we came to realize that they all had one thing in common: each and every single organization was plagued by resistance to change.

From smaller businesses to big companies and government offices, it always came down to the same thing: change was very difficult to implement. Even more so when it involved new processes or tools.

We figured you might be facing the same issues in your workplace, so we decided to compile a list of best practices for you! We decided to focus on the best ways to introduce new tools, as this is generally quite a challenge for all types of organizations.

So we scoured the web for answers, called up our project manager friends and asked experts on Quora. Here are the main takeaways from our investigation – things you really need to keep in mind when trying to get your colleagues to adopt a new tool.

Don’t go at it alone

Finding your own bugs and squashing them alone in your shiny new bug tracking system is a pretty sad experience. Try to find and enroll a few early adopters to help your new project get started. They can become evangelists and coach others as you start rolling it out across the company.

Squash all the bugs!

Involving a couple of people early on will also create “social pressure” and incite others to use the new tool you’re trying to sell your team.

Involve Gen-Y employees early on

Much has been written about the clash of generations at the office. As Generation Y employees are infiltrating the workforce, so are their views on technology and the organization of work. They’re usually easy to convince when time comes to try new things, so use that to your advantage when getting your team to adopt a brand spanking new tool.

Just make sure the tool you want to bring in takes into account that this generation is comprised of digital natives. After all, they grew up with iPhones and are well versed in the ways of Facebook, Twitter, you name it. Their expectations are generally high and they will want your tool to be as good (if not better!) as the other web apps they are using at home everyday.

They can also provide valuable feedback: if your tool is too difficult for them to understand, chances are, it won’t fly with the rest of your team!

Think about what’s in it for the majority of users

Most productivity tools require content creation, something that is especially important right from the start. Unfortunately, these types of tools are often designed with content creators in mind, which means they do not have an immediate value for content seekers.

If I can just email information to my client or call my colleague Alice to ask about the latest company report, why would I want to take the time to enter that information somewhere else? Or to fire up an app and use its search tool?

It is crucial to the success of any new initiative to clearly state how the majority of users will benefit from it. What’s in it for them, and how will it help them do their job better? Emphasize on clear benefits: will it save your team some precious time? Can your department reduce its operating costs using this new tool?

It’s also easier for newcomers to understand how a tool works when they have examples and content to learn from in the beginning. We highly suggest you create engaging content and offer to tutor your colleagues before inviting them to try a new tool. This will certainly help drive adoption rate.

Build awareness

“Oh, you’re using a great tool with a trendy name? Can’t find it on Google. Yes, I’ve gone through 10 pages of results, and still nothing. Oh, you mean they’re using a different domain than the actual name of the product? Of course, why didn’t I think of that? So what’s the URL again? How do you spell that? Can you just email it to me?”

“You know what? Forget it.”

Double Facepalm

Sounds familiar? Yeah, some pretty powerful tools unfortunately have very common (or impossibly complicated) names, which makes them difficult to find for the average non-techie user. Make sure you tell your colleagues about the new tool and educate them on what it does.

But first? Literally spell it out for them. Show them how to find it. Install it or bookmark it for them, if you must. Make sure it is easily accessible, so people don’t have to make an extra effort to find it.

Harness the power of the inbox

As much as we would all love to, it’ll be difficult in this day and age to get rid of email altogether. Why? Because it’s a deeply ingrained habit, and you don’t have to put much thought into it. Email generally just works, and people do read their messages over the course of a workday.

So we suggest you try to outsmart the inbox to help kickstart the adoption of your new tool. Use this to your own advantage if you want to get your team or your department to change the way they work. Pick a tool that has some sort of integration with email to get your coworkers to pay attention.

Whether your tool sends out digests, notifications or invites, messages popping up in an inbox tend to get noticed and will help forming new habits. Why not maximize your chances and ensure your colleagues are reminded about the existence of the new tool every once in a while?

Mailbox

Whew! Since it’s a lot to take in at once, we decided to share only a few of our findings this week. Let these sink in and stay tuned for part 2, coming next week!

Meanwhile, we’d love to hear back from you! How are you dealing with resistance to change at the office these days? What are some of the things you have done to get your colleagues to successfully adopt a new software or tool?

Keep your knowledge relevant

The Crowdbase team has been working on a long list of new features and enhancements – the excitement is really building as we get closer to the launch date of our latest release at the end of October.

Add RSS feeds and track Twitter links

One of the new enhancements that really has us pumped here is the ability to add RSS feeds, track Twitter links and share those links with your team – without leaving Crowdbase. We added this enhancement because it is important to keep your internal knowledge fresh and relevant by keeping track of what is going on outside your organization. With the ability to add external content, it gives you a source for alternative perspectives on topics of interest so you can grow your knowledge base faster.

Use for Competitive Intelligence and Market Monitoring

Some of the uses we are already finding for this new enhancement are for competitive intelligence: you can add RSS feeds from competitor blogs, websites, and track Twitter links so you can stay up-to-date on what others in your industry or profession are doing. Tracking Twitter links allows you to keep an eye on experts in your field or even your own customers so you can keep apprised of any key events, trends or articles of interest. It is a great market monitoring tool, that allows you to quickly share information with your colleagues to capitalize on an opportunity or threat.

External content

If you have not checked out our website recently, you need to do it now! We recently refreshed the look and would love to hear your feedback! Hit us up on Twitter or Facebook.

Soon on Crowdbase: enhanced interface and unprecedented features!

Based on valuable feedback from users like you, we have added some of the most requested features to our product. We can’t wait to let you experience it firsthand.

blog-new-features

So, what’s new?

  • Integrate external feeds: pull content from the web, save and organize only what is relevant for your team. Stay up-to-date with your industry and keep track of your competitors.

  • Improved Q&A feature: learn faster using our new questions and answers module. Easily identify unanswered questions. Select the best answer to a question to pinpoint what is most relevant for your team.

  • Organizations: a better way to hierarchize your knowledge. From now on, work within an organization to manage your teams and content inside Crowdbase. An organization may contain as many groups as you need.

  • Custom privacy for groups: create open groups for all members of your organization or set different privacy levels (invite-only or completely private).

  • Revamped experience for iPhone: access your knowledge, reading lists, Q&A and external feeds. Adding content and sharing knowledge on the go is easier than ever – and fully compatible with iOS7.

You can also look forward to enjoying an updated layout, a faster platform and a personalized newsfeed to help you stay-up-to-date with what’s happening inside your organization!

blog-dashboard-en

When is it coming?

Soon! Migration to the new platform will be done in phases, over a couple of months. Don’t worry though: we will notify you before we proceed with the update!

If you would like to start using the new platform as soon as it is available, please contact us to plan an accelerated migration.

We hope you will love the new Crowdbase as much as we do!

Do More with your Files, Video Integration, Support for Multiple Email Addresses

We’re really pleased to deliver these fresh new features today. We believe they will improve your workflow within Crowdbase.

Attach Files to an Article

In order to help you better share knowledge with your team, you can now attach multiple files to the posts you create.

lostknowledge
Upload Bigger Files

Need to add big files to your group? Don’t fret – you can now upload files that are up to 500MB in size!

Watch Video Content Directly Within your Group

Video content added to a group can be watched within Crowdbase – no download required!

Video Player

Support for Multiple Emails

From now on, you can assign multiple email addresses to your Crowdbase account. If you already have more than one Crowdbase account and would like to merge them, please get in touch with us!

Multiple Emails


Try these new features
today and let us know what you think! :)