One of the hardest lessons to learn growing up is how to share – how to share your toys, your candy, and maybe your room with a sibling. As a child, it’s difficult to get past the thought “but, it’s MINE!”
We hang on tightly to what is “ours, ” and if goaded into sharing, we attempt to dictate how we share.
"You can play with the toy for 5 minutes ONLY.”
Sharing is made a bit easier for children when there is a perceived advantage to them.
“You can play with my toy if I can play with yours.”
It’s no wonder, then, that organizations tend to have a very similar approach to sharing, especially before the turn of the century. Organizations kept what was perceived as “theirs” under lockdown and threw away the key, discouraging sharing outside of the organization unless there was an advantage.
Many businesses still shut down the notion of knowledge sharing because they think of it as giving competitors their deepest, darkest secrets. In many ways, this is understandable; organizations have every right to protect their trade.
But what about knowledge of things like best practices, process improvement, and employee retention strategies? Why shouldn't this information be shared with others in the industry, or even outside of it?
With the advent of social networks in the last ten years or so, we have seen an exponential increase in sharing, both among organizations and individuals. All it takes is the click of a button to share information on social media.
Here’s an example: in the earliest days of computers, software coding was a very formal process, in some ways reminiscent of writing a college term paper. You defined objectives and requirements, did your research, created a structure, and wrote your code in a very linear way. No one outside of the organization ever saw the code that made the software run. As a result, organization after organization consistently re-invented the wheel by coding software operations from scratch. Every. Single. Time.
But these days you may have noticed that the hush-hush climate surrounding knowledge changed. Software developers have taken advantage of all of the ways to share information digitally with a click of the mouse, and repositories now exist where you can find snippets of shared code to utilize in whatever software you are building.
Now, instead of writing the next great software package from scratch, developers can take the best ideas and bring them together to create something new, and they can typically do it in a much shorter amount of time. But why should everyone else share information across our respective industries?
#1: Make Everyone’s Job Easier
Asking questions of Twitter followers or LinkedIn groups, or searching blog posts and white papers yields valuable information to apply and adapt to our own projects, saving time and money. Crowd-sourcing is the new norm.
The best part is, people are sharing their knowledge and ideas without expecting any immediate return on their investment of time and resources. Instead, there is a sort of unwritten rule to “pay it forward” because someday you will be the one needing advice.
#2: Become A Thought Leader In Your Industry
Building trust with your customers and clients is nothing to scoff at. You might not always share the most earth-shattering information; you may even think your industry is a dry topic, but the key is to present useful information in an easily digestible and creative way.
Take heed, though: don’t be a curator. That is to say, steer away from simply sharing others’ thoughts and articles. Summarize and add an opinion. A quick paragraph of your own commentary will go a long way.
If you consistently create your own content and add helpful commentary on others’ material, people will soon begin to look to you for answers.
#3 Build Your Footprint
Sharing knowledge that fulfills people’s needs inevitably translates to others sharing that content, linking to your website. If you aren't already aware, inbound links significantly help your SEO efforts, meaning you’re more likely to show up on a results page when people search the internet. More traffic = more success for you.
A word of caution: readers share valuable information, not unusable content. Ask yourself why readers should care about what you’re sharing and adjust accordingly. If you don’t want to blog or create written content, consider an infographic. Infographics have been a hot trend, taking social media by storm, and don't seem to be slowing down.
#4: Create a Brand Image and Personality
Share your knowledge however you can, in whatever way makes you comfortable. And have fun with it! True, it takes less time to blog than to create a visually stunning infographic, but the importance is the knowledge it contains.
Make it informational. Make it relevant. Reflect your company’s brand and the image you wish to put out in the world.
The way your business gathers, shares and utilizes its industry knowledge can be central to its ability to develop successfully. Organizations that try to sequester all of their knowledge behind a firewall are focused only on what they could lose, rather than on all of the tremendous advantages to be gained by sharing.