What Should Companies do to Actualize Collective Knowledge Management

The Internal Dilemma of Employees Unwilling to Share Knowledge

Managing the accumulated and discrete knowledge in an organization can be tricky. For instance, organizations might have knowledge about processes and projects that are distributed across the organization and not collated and centralized in one repository. This is where an effective knowledge management that centralizes and collects knowledge from across the organization would come in handy. Further, organizations might have employees who are individually brilliant but are reluctant to share their knowledge with other employees.

Often, it is the case that organizations have star performers who would like to remain competitive by not divulging information. This is the classic case in many contemporary multinationals where individual performers are cagey about sharing their knowledge with others. Moreover, there are many organizations where the organizational culture is such that employees who are extraordinarily talented are encouraged to file patents and contribute to academic journals and naturally this knowledge does not percolate to the others in the organization until after the patent is approved and made part of the organizational processes. These are some of the dilemmas that organizations face within their precincts as far as knowledge management is concerned.

The External Threats of Knowledge Theft

The other aspect about collective knowledge management is that many organizations are wary of competitors acquiring their expertise that has been developed over years or even decades. For instance, having a knowledge management system that centralizes all knowledge and providing access to all employees might not be a good idea because of fears over theft of knowledge by those employees who are leaving the organization. Indeed, this is precisely the reason why many organizations carefully check whether the employees are uploading documents and artifacts outside the organization and have the IT services team to monitor such uploads to file sharing sites in order to prevent the leakage of knowledge. This is also the reason why many organizations provide access to knowledge management systems on a need to know basis rather than an umbrella access that would make all employees privy to confidential information. Moreover, the fact that corporate espionage has increased in recent times where competitors and rivals are using sophisticated methods to steal intellectual property has also raised the concerns of organizations about sharing knowledge and having a knowledge management system that is free for all to share and publish.

Actualizing a Collective Knowledge Management System

Therefore actualizing collective knowledge management is a process that is fraught with risks and hence, caution must be exercised by corporates in developing a knowledge management system.

The three dilemmas of internal competitiveness wherein some star performers are wary of sharing knowledge; the need to maintain external competitiveness where there is a risk of exiting employees taking documents and artifacts with them; and finally, the very real threat of industrial espionage which rivals and competitors engage in means that organizations must have well laid down procedures and policies regarding the sharing of knowledge. This is the reason why top knowledge management companies like 3M and Intel have procedures where knowledge sharing is voluntary and accompanied by mutual gain to the employees and the organization as well as policies that protect patents and intellectual property from plagiarism and theft. No wonder these organizations are regarded as industry leaders as far as actualizing knowledge management is concerned. Maybe, other organizations can learn from them as well as the example of Infosys that has compartmentalized and departmental access to its knowledge management system.

Concluding Remarks

Finally, the points made in this article do not mean that organizations should not have a free flowing knowledge management system in place. Rather, the key theme here is that organizations must establish policies and procedures to manage the flow of information and knowledge in such a way that would guarantee against loss of proprietary information and at the same time ensure that there is a lively exchange of knowledge across the organization.


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