I gave a talk called “The Social Intranet” last week at the Deltek Insight conference in Nashville. I described how architects and engineers are using social tools such as blogs, wikis, and update streams inside their firms to create, capture, and share knowledge. At the end of the talk, I introduced the Intranet Maturity Model, a framework Knowledge Architecture developed to help our clients assess and improve the quality of their intranets. The model starts at level one, with firms posting essential information on their intranet such as an employee handbook and benefits, and tops out at level five, with firms using their intranets to collaboratively identify new capabilities, services, and ideas to offer their clients.
I asked folks in the audience to share where their firms fit on the Intranet Maturity Model, on a scale from one to five. A young guy in the audience raised his hand and suggested that his firm was a zero. He did not believe that his firm’s culture supported knowledge sharing, in fact, he claimed that his leadership actively hoarded knowledge out of the fear that their employees would walk down the street and open a competing firm.
“How can a social intranet fix that?,” he asked sarcastically.
“It can’t,” was my reply. “We often compare intranets to a mirror, which reflects the strengths, weakness, and culture of an organization. Sure, better technology helps, but if your leadership is actively dissuading knowledge sharing, it only follows that your intranet would be useless. However, the opposite is also true. We have several clients whose leadership not only encourages knowledge sharing on their intranet, but actively blogs on topics that are critical to the firm’s future. Those clients know that the worst thing you could possibly say to encourage knowledge sharing is ‘Share Dammit!’ Leadership needs to actively model the behavior that they want the rest of the firm to exhibit, but more critically, explain what knowledge is most critical to target.”
I went on to introduce Dan Pink’s thesis on intrinsic motivation from his book Drive. However, I would have loved to have shown the audience Simon Sinek’s TED talk above, which I think speaks directly to the most core issue in knowledge sharing — why should we share? Codifying knowledge takes time, it is a “happy grind” as my friend Shannon McDonough says. Team members must be intrinsically motivated to sustain continuous improvement and innovation, but they must also believe that their efforts are critical to building a great company, not just a great wiki.
Simon Sinek would call intranet technology the What. There is no doubt that better technology, such as social tools, makes sharing knowledge easier, but when Knowledge Architecture uses our Intranet Maturity Model to understand why some companies build level five intranets, and others get stuck at level one, we start with Why. Why does the housing practice have such an amazing set of methodology and tools? Who is the practice leader? Why does she invest so much time in building a practice while the healthcare group does not?
I hope you enjoy Simon’s talk as much as we have.