A recent study by management researchers Julian Kawohl and Jonas Wieland from the University of Applied Sciences (HTW) Berlin concludes that 64 of the 80 largest medium-sized companies lack digital experience among top management. The scientists examined the lives of almost all managers of the 80 largest German medium-sized companies, including companies such as Rewe, Bosch, Heraeus and Boehringer Ingelheim.
The study thus provides a starting point for active knowledge transfer in a company in two ways:
- Curriculum vitae is not everything: The researchers obtained their findings only by evaluating the CVs of the managing directors. From the perspective of the researchers, those without positions at startups or digital associations on their CVs have no digital experience. Here, the study falls short, because in times of digital transformation, even companies without a proven digital business model have to deal with new technologies, tools, and cultural techniques and gather new knowledge and “digital experience.”
- Where do they get this knowledge from? At best, through clever and up-to-date knowledge management in the company. “Sharing is caring” does not only apply to companies of the so-called “new work economy.” Sharing know-how and experience across departments and positions becomes a success factor for ALL companies. A “new work economy” thrives on the exchange and networking of its knowledge bearers – and that’s ALL employees!
Pass on valuable knowledge: sharing beats exclusivity
The bad news: with the development of rigid hierarchical structures and the associated focus on career advancement since the beginning of industrialization, employees in companies have been initially reluctant to share. Their own status and assets became the goal, and exclusive knowledge served as a vehicle for ascent. And, if necessary, elbows could be thrown to defend both.
The good news: digital transformation is increasingly softening these structures. The hierarchy in many companies is crumbling or at least on its way there. Good conditions to let knowledge flow and return to a notion we were born with: sharing is good!
Back to our roots: sharing is great!
Katharina Hamann from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology stated that our ability to cooperate is innate. Already as children we understand what it means to have a common goal and to achieve it together. But the researcher also found that the willingness to share is linked to the willingness to collaborate. That is, we only share when we feel that our counterpart deserves it because he or she is working on it with us. This is probably as true for marbles as it is for knowledge.
What follows from these points for sharing knowledge in companies?
1. Knowledge transfer needs flexible structures.
Everyone has something to contribute that benefits the company. So knowledge has to be shared in all directions – from managers to production workers across departments. Businesses can specifically promote the exchange of knowledge by working more on projects with changing teams and leaders.
2. Knowledge transfer needs a common goal.
Those sharing knowledge need to know why. Positions and career-thinking obstruct the view of the actual goal of the company. This must be made clear again. Why are we here? What are we working towards? What do we want to achieve together?
3. Knowledge transfer needs an open and collaborative corporate culture.
It’s not only the one with the greatest exclusive knowledge who will be rewarded. Knowledge and decision-making power should be agile and available to all employees who are willing to put both at the service of achieving a common goal and sharing their experience with the team. Collaboration beats competition!
4. Knowledge transfer needs more job sharing.
Employees who share a task and a responsibility also share their experience and knowledge automatically and permanently. This is how duos with concentrated expertise and high problem-solving skills are created.
Sharing is caring – does that also apply to the know-how in your work environment? We want to know! And we’re asking ourselves and you how companies and employees actually deal with knowledge in times of digital transformation. Help us if you are as interested in the topic as we are and take part in our survey.