November 11, 2010

Make the Hidden Obvious

House Size Rock

I bet you know a ton of stuff.

Stuff that none of your team knows you know.

And I bet your team knows stuff that you don’t know they know.

Useful stuff on both sides? You bet.

Wasted Assets

There’s a bunch of knowledge buried deep in your business. Things tried, learned and done before. Powerful, door opening stuff — if only you knew it was there.

What good is knowledge if no one can get to it? Knowledge not shared is redundant. A hidden strength. A wasted asset.

The gap between what’s known and what’s shared is filled with three kinds of problem.

  • Not-invented-here — some people like to work things out on their own. They don’t ask for help or search for existing answers.
  • Have-to-be-invited — some stand by the wall, waiting to be asked to the party. They might have more to offer than anyone but they need to be invited to help.
  • I-didn’t-think-to-ask — some get so involved in a question that they never raise their head or look for help.

The trick of course is to unplug the dam, release the flow, and turn all that knowledge into a competitive wave.

Part of the answer is to play leader-as-connector. Putting Mary in touch with Paul, pushing project teams to put feelers out, and tapping histories for gold.

But you can only do so much from the top.

Set It Free

Ultimately, the only way to unfreeze knowledge and get it flowing to its most productive home is to to create an environment where it’s not only OK to ask for help, it’s expected.

Where it’s standard practice to ask, Does anyone know about …? How do you think I should ….? Where the Not-Inventeds have to share, where the To-Be-Inviteds are always invited, and the Didn’t-Thinkers have no choice but to think.

By revealing and maximising what you already know, your team becomes more productive, more innovative and more responsive to change. Spending their time adding to the sum of knowledge, not just reinventing it.

Knowledge may be power, but only when it’s free.