Inspired by a KM4Dev FAQ
The issues around creating a knowledge sharing culture often come up in different threads on KM4Dev, which validates the fact that this topic is central to the concerns of members. Two threads dealt more specifically with culture. The first, intitled “Sharing knowledge in inclusive and exclusive arrangements” was introduced by Marc Steinlin of Helvetas in August 2001. The second thread, “Cultural setting and inter-organisational experiences” initiated by Ben Docker of UNSSC in January 2003, was actually resuscitated a couple of months later by Tony Prior of IRG. The existing FAQ - which can be found below in Detailed description - was updated using the content of these discussions.
What are the cultural factors that affect KS?
Here are some of the organisational culture-related factors that can affect or constrain knowledge sharing:
How can an organisational culture be created that enables knowledge sharing?
Organisational cultures that enable knowledge sharing tend to evolve, rather than change overnight. It is rarely a logical linear process. It is often messy and takes a long time. The key is creating space, i.e. mechanisms and incentives, encouraging people to share, rather then hoard knowledge. The ultimate goal is to invent the management discipline of collaboration and knowledge sharing. The process should be demand driven – responding to an internal or external need for improved knowledge sharing – rather than just a “good idea” dreamed up by someone in the organisation. External pressure from clients, donors or partners can be a critical factor - internal and external alliances are essential to drive the process. It is important early on to create the space for informal exchange, to try to remove the organisational barriers to knowledge sharing and encourage internal champions to try out some new ideas. Small KS pilot projects can be a good way to stimulate cultural shifts. These living examples of improved KS within an organisation are often the most effective way of convincing senior managers of its value. Establishing a holistic approach to KS throughout an organisation may require a major change process, which will require the support and active involvement of senior management. This may include:
1. On Cultural Setting: Does an internal KS culture solicit an inter-agency KS culture? and, What techniques have been used within the development community to produce cultural shifts, through attitude and behavioural changes across organisational boundaries? 2. On Cross-agency activites: What examples exist on the institutionalisation of cross-organisational KS activities? What has worked? and what lessons have been learned?
”At IICD, I insisted that no knowledge sharing project or initiative be implemented by IICD alone. There must be an external collaborator or partner, preferably several. If there are no external partners, we don't do it. This tries to get the incentives right. In this and previous jobs, I have been lucky to be able to find ways to co-host or host events, seed fund, network, or otherwise nurture processes that bring potential and actual partner organisations together to share knowledge and to collaborate. In many cases, the collaborations that resulted did not actually involve my organisation - but it contributed to our mission and helped to establish its reputation as a neutral broker and facilitator. We should therefore not be afraid to invest in KS processes and spaces where ideas can emerge.“
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Knowledge sharing, culture, organisational culture,