The value of knowledge which is distributed among the employees of an organization was recognized decades ago by companies and academia.
In the 90s the interest in that topic increased. Academia stated to emphasize the strategic and competitive value of this knowledge. Some scholars investigate companies’ organizational learning skills as the origin of that value and competitive advantage. Others go further and argue for a knowledge-based theory of the firm. In this theory knowledge is the most valuable resource of a company and it is among others embedded in its employees.
These research and its findings lead to the same direction. A company that does not deal with and properly manages the exchange of knowledge that it inhabits has a hard time having long-term success.
However, it is one thing to be aware of the need for knowledge sharing as a success factor and another to successfully implement it into the company. The possibilities to implement knowledge sharing in a company are manifold. It can be a simple database that is accessible and editable by the employees with reports about malfunctions or best-practices. It can also go as far as a so-called expertise-locator. A system supported for example by an artificial intelligence that identifies people with certain skills or knowledge for a specific task.
Having said that, IT-supported systems can only facilitate the exchange of knowledge to a certain point. It is also about establishing and maintaining a mindset and a culture in the company that enables the exchange of knowledge between colleagues. Without this precondition any system would fail to provide success in this matter. And the many advantages of knowledge sharing strengthen the need for a functioning knowledge management system in a company. Some of them are obvious other less so:
Certainly it leads for example to a general expansion of knowledge in the company and employees save time when able to fall back on already existing knowledge. Less obvious is that knowledge sharing can empower employees. If they get the feeling that their expertise is valued by other colleagues this can strengthen their moral and creates more involved employees. It can also strengthen their innovative capabilities. Therefore a greater base of shared knowledge is the foundation for creative new ideas and efficient solutions.