Interview, 06.06.2024

To the best of our knowledge! Mobilising and sharing knowledge within the company.

As St Bernard of Chartres aptly put it back in 1120, today’s knowledge society sits on the shoulders of giants: Progress and innovation come about when we add our own contribution to the wealth of knowledge we find. In organisations with an inexhaustible treasure trove of knowledge and experience, however, the right framework conditions are needed so that knowledge and experience can be shared.

In an interview with Carina de Lange, Innovation & Change Manager at workingwell, Kristin Block, knowledge facilitator with her own consultancy, reveals how an open knowledge culture can be anchored in an organisation.

Kristin, let’s talk about knowledge. What actually is knowledge management?

I don’t really like the term ‘knowledge management’. The term doesn’t do justice to the complexity and dynamics inherent in the process. We can only ever ‘manage’ knowledge partially and it is tied to people. I therefore prefer the image that knowledge must be ‘orchestrated’. Because just like in an orchestra, every individual in an organisation has a unique role, a fixed place and clear responsibilities. Despite this individuality, everyone works together to create a harmonious overall picture.

So what do I have to do to ‘orchestrate’ knowledge – as you put it?

To stay with the image of the orchestra: the notes serve as guidelines, but the interpretation and playing lie in the hands and minds of the individual musicians: inside. This is where the conductor comes in – they set the pace and create a coherent work of art. I view knowledge management in a similar way. It’s not just about organising data or managing information, but rather about putting it into context. People are the musicians who recognise their wealth of knowledge, and a good ‘conductor’ – be it the team leader or mentor – provides the direction to unfold the full potential of knowledge.

I would like to put forward a provocative thesis. At our last Innovation Hackathon, one of our theses was: ‘Subject matter experts are dead.’ Knowledge is no longer exclusive or hierarchical. It’s about finding, sharing and reinterpreting knowledge. This is the only way to move from knowledge to expertise. How do you see that?

I see it in a similar way. There’s a word that comes to mind spontaneously. It’s about collaboration: knowledge builds on knowledge. The transfer of knowledge into skills arises from collaboration and exchange. As you rightly say, we need to move away from hierarchical thinking towards thinking in networks. To do this, we need to break up knowledge monopolies. In many organisations, the credo ‘knowledge is power’ still applies and employees try to maintain power. However, this power is crumbling in many organisations and the realisation is gaining ground that only shared knowledge really helps the company to achieve its goals. One prerequisite for this is the establishment of a knowledge culture.

And how do we achieve this? How do we create a knowledge-sharing culture?

Knowledge management is always seen as the big project. However, it is more effective to make many small adjustments in order to establish a knowledge culture in the company. It is important to arouse curiosity and show that no major changes are needed to implement knowledge management and change behaviour in the organisation. The best way to do this is to start small. This means first creating a trusting space in a team in which knowledge sharing and collaboration are encouraged. In this way, responsibility is delegated to the organisation itself, i.e. to the employees. This makes it clear that each individual can make a contribution. In this way, even small successes can be communicated transparently. It creates an appetite for more. Other measures that I can recommend are, for example appointing knowledge coaches or presenting best practices via a market of opportunities or keynote speeches. In this way, the behaviour of individuals sets a domino effect in motion and sharing knowledge goes from ritual and routine to culture.

And what role do managers play in this?

A company’s knowledge culture is characterised by managers and their handling of the resource ‘knowledge’. As role models, they are responsible for promoting a culture of learning and curiosity in which all team members are encouraged and empowered to continuously share their knowledge. However, taking all employees along also means recognising those who are not in the front row, loud or extroverted. These people also harbour enormous knowledge potential that is worth tapping into.

If there was one thing you would like to pass on to us when sharing knowledge, what would it be?

How we share our knowledge, with whom we share our knowledge – it’s in our own hands. The only thing we need is openness and the self-confidence to want to share it with others. The impact starts with ourselves and that is where the great power lies.

Kristin Block ( supports companies in areas such as the structured transfer of expertise from managers and experts. For her, people are at the centre of her work.

Carina de Lange is Change and Innovation Manager at workingwell. With her many years of training experience and extensive New Work knowledge, she sensitises employees and managers to the opportunities of cultural change. At the same time, Carina mobilises them to rethink work.

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