E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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Why Is Knowledge Sharing Important? A Matter of Survival

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves & Surroundings in the SpringI just wish that Patrick Lambe would be on Twitter. I surely do! That man has got plenty of golden nuggets to share around the topics of Knowledge Sharing, Collaboration, Communities, Learning and Enterprise 2.0 to just be scattered around in multiple blog posts alone. Here and there. He has been one of my favourite KM bloggers for years and just wished he would, finally, jump the shark and join us inside the lovely waters of the Twitter river streams. Have you checked out one of his most recent blog posts on Why is Knowledge Sharing Important? If you haven’t, you should! It will certainly help you understand why knowledge sharing is just so critical for organisations to survive in the 21st century.

In that blog post he just shared a recent videocast he did for one of his colleagues where he spent about 15 minutes talking about why knowledge sharing, as a business activity in organisations, is so important altogether. He comes to summarise knowledge sharing as a crucial activity for three different types of interactions: Coordination, Learning and Remembering. And from there onwards he gets to explain each and everyone of them nicely with lots of really helpful examples we can all relate to.

Like I said, if you can spare 15 minutes today, don’t hesitate to watch through it, as I am sure you would find it incredibly resourceful and very much thought-provoking, specially if your organisation is one of those that prides themselves on knowledge hoarding or if your business is one that still boasts on the “Knowledge Is Power” mantra.

As a teaser, I thought I would go ahead though and share with you a couple of the little precious gems he shares on the video clip, which clearly resonate with some of the topics I have been discussing on this blog for a long while now. These gems belong to the part of the video where Patrick talks about “Environments for constructive knowledge sharing in organisations“. And he names them as follows:


  • Create habits and routines for sharing: Yes, that’s right! Sharing for the sake of sharing is probably not going to happen that very often and perhaps not with the right purpose. Sharing knowledge needs to happen on a defined context, a context you can suggest by promoting a number of different activities knowledge workers can engage with.

    Patrick mentions meetings, as perhaps some of the most effective. I also like his inclusion of informal gatherings, as part of those meetings, since I feel that’s where knowledge sharing really happens and shines, i.e. when you bump into people out of the blue and decide to spend 5 to 10 minutes to catch up (Whether face to face or virtually!). We all know how some meetings can be rather dreadful, however, when they have got a purpose and a rather specific context they seem to still be rather effective methods of sharing your knowledge across and collaborate with your peers in real time. Even, if it is just to share informally what folks have been working on lately.

    That’s all part of bringing forward some clarity and awareness of what’s happening around an organisation and certainly those formal AND informal meetings can prove to be rather effective. Still. That’s where the creation of those habits and routines would kick in, eventually.

  • Move from a reactive to a proactive sharing culture: This is one of my all time favourites, more than anything else, because of the implications behind the change of mindset towards knowledge sharing itself, as a business activity. Patrick shares the example over here from the US Army how they have gone from a mentality of knowledge sharing as a need to know to a need to share.

    Basically, making knowledge workers responsible for that knowledge sharing activity by encouraging it, facilitating it and making it happen. After all, they are going to be the ones most dependent on the abundance, or not, of such knowledge, so ensuring that it happens as a co-creative and co-shared responsibility is probably as good as it gets for all knowledge workers out there.

    That proactive inclination towards sharing your knowledge is not only an essential and critical learning activity for each and every knowledge worker out there, but it is also something that I have been talking a lot lately, very much related towards the concept of leaving a legacy behind. Indeed, I can imagine how there may be plenty of people who wouldn’t care about leaving a legacy behind in their organisations when they leave, but isn’t that a rather sad thing? That you have spent more than one third of your lifetime (Remember, the second third is the time you spend sleeping!) working for one, or multiple, organisations and you don’t care about leaving a legacy behind? I resist to believe that people would feel that way nowadays, to be honest, but if they are, I hope they are reading this blog post, because I think they need to look for another job. One where they feel their legacy is just as important as that one from everyone else by contributing to the general and collective living memory of that organisation. Can there be anything more rewarding than that? … Specially, when that knowledge shared is reused by others, even when you are not there anymore? … Think about it.

  • Create opportunities for serendipitous conversations: And, finally, another golden nugget shared across by Patrick: using serendipity to provoke such knowledge sharing activities in organisations, specially in a very informal way, which seems to be the most effective manner in facilitating the sharing of what we know. In fact, this is a term that I have grown to be rather fond of over the course of the last few months, after reading it off from Paula Thornton in a recent tweet: facilitated serendipity, through coffee corners, water coolers or in today’s now more than ever distributed and virtual world … social software, *the* virtual water cooler!

    I think it just describes quite nicely how those serendipitous knowledge discoveries would be taking place, as part of that larger initiative of narrating your work, of providing clarity to what you do (Along the same lines as Observable Work that a few folks have been talking about lately, and which I will blog about at a later time as well). Eventually, one of the biggest challenges for social networking within the enterprise is to be, basically, designed for virtual serendipity). Then from there onwards, let serendipity do its magic, as it always has…

WOW! Ok, that’s plenty more than just a teaser, I know! But, hopefully, it would help folks get a better understanding of what you can expect from watching Patrick’s videocast on “Why is Knowledge Sharing Important?“. Back in the day labour based companies were probably not too worried about knowledge sharing altogether, and that was fine, but as we are transitioning into that knowledge economy of the 21st century where knowledge is not only critical, but essential, for every knowledge based organisation, I am seriously starting to believe that sharing your knowledge across is no longer a nice activity to promote and engage in, but purely a matter of survival. Our mutual survival.



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  1. Great link, Luis. One interesting challenge is how you manage collaboration. Some collaboration you can manage, some you can encourage — and some occurs spontaneously.

  2. The concepts that he speaks of are actually ingrained in Agile software development, so this all sounded very familiar and support the lessons that we have learned through it. The stand-up procedure that he refers to is something that is something that we do daily and the sharing is definitely vital to our work. We also do a weekly retrospective where we go over the good, bad and things that need to change as a group, which lead to revelations that others in our team have had as well as deciding on other ways that we need to build our knowledge base whether that be through a class, conference or something as simple as a lunch n learn on the subject.

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