Knowledge sharing

| By TMA World

 

Sharing knowledge and collaborating productively in a business ecosystem is the promise of the digital age.  We have the technologies, but do we have the cultures and people to leverage the existing knowledge and generate new knowledge and value?

Virtual team knowledge management for coordinating, creating synergies, and innovating depends on tools and techniques for collecting, storing, channeling, and absorbing knowledge, but it also depends on roles played by team members.  Many roles are not specific and formally defined but their existence or absence significantly impacts results.

Here are two sets of constructive roles: Disturbers and Mobilizers.

Disturbers
It might sound like Disturber roles are by definition negative.  Taken to an extreme they can be, but on a productive team they prod and probe, and sometimes overturn stale conventional wisdom.  They can also help make tacit knowledge more explicit.  Such roles are critical for generating new insights, innovating, and improving team effectiveness.
Self: Look at the Disturber roles below.  As an individual, which roles do you play well or not so well?  What are the consequences of your findings for your own performance on the team? 
Team: When you think about your virtual team(s), which roles would you say are under- or over-represented?  What the consequences for the performance of the team? 

Experimenter:  Learning from trying new ways, testing  and validating ideas
Hunter:  Seeking out new and different sources of knowledge
Integrator:  Developing new insights by connecting separate ideas
Originator:  Creating new knowledge and ideas
Questioner: Challenging existing knowledge and assumptions

Mobilizers
Mobilizers keep up-to-date and relevant knowledge flowing around the team. 
Look at the Mobilizer roles below.  As an individual, which roles do you play well or not so well?  What are the consequences of your findings for your own performance on the team? 
When you think about your virtual team(s), are their roles that are under- or over-represented?  What the consequences for the performance of the team? 
                     
Accelerator:  Enabling the fast flow of knowledge around the team
Amplifier:  Communicating knowledge and ideas loud and clear
Analyst:  Evaluating knowledge as relevant and valid
Distributor:  Channeling knowledge to where it adds the most value
Editor: Organizing and formatting knowledge to facilitate shared understanding
Engineer:  Codifying high-value recurring collaboration practices for re-use and transfer
Farmer:  Growing the existing knowledge base
Implementer:  Applying knowledge for tangible results
Multiplier:  Using knowledge to identify new possibilities
Navigator:  Knowing where explicit (and even implicit) knowledge is likely to be located
Prioritizer:  Focusing knowledge generation and application on critical issues
Sensemaker:  Facilitating the shared understanding of knowledge

Keep a lookout for when these Disturber and Mobilizer roles become dysfunctional, e.g. when a Questioner only questions and keeps on undermining an agreed upon strategy, or when an Accelerator overloads the team with too much information. 

The Destructors
Unfortunately, there are some roles that are continuously undermine team performance.
Look at the Destructor roles below.  As an individual, which roles are you sometimes guilty of playing?  What are the consequences of your findings for your own performance on the team? 
When you think about your virtual team(s), what Destructor roles tend to be consistently present?  What the consequences for the performance of the team? 
                                    
Blockers:  Creating unnecessary – sometimes deliberate – barriers to knowledge flow
Chaotics:  Being without focus, discipline, and organization
Charlatans:  Pretending to have knowledge and expertise, but basically have none
Escalators:  Creating and fueling destructive communication spirals
Hoarders:  Keeping knowledge hidden from others
Ludds:  Resisting using or becoming skilled in new collaboration technologies
Psychics:  Leaving others to guess what they are thinking and doing

The nature of the knowledge to be captured and leveraged on a virtual team can be professional, market, ecosystem/organizational, relational, and methodological.  In terms of the latter form of knowledge, one of the Mobilizer Roles I listed was the Engineer.  This role is related to Collaboration Engineering (CE).  CE is a systematic approach to designing and deploying high value recurring collaborative work practices/heuristic.  While some collaborative heuristics might need to be invented (or re-worked) for specific situations and contexts, many will have greater scale and scope.
In any collaboration there are certain patterns of deliberation/collaboration.  CE identifies the following:
Diverge: moving from having fewer to having more concepts with which to work.
Converge: moving from having many concepts to focus on a few deemed more worthy of attention.
Clarify: moving from less to more shared understanding of concepts and labels.
Organise: deriving understanding of the relationships among concepts.
Evaluate: increasing understanding of the usefulness of concepts.
Build Consensus: moving from having less agreement among stakeholders to having more agreement among stakeholders.

For more on how to leverage virtual communication technologies for increased business performance, see our Digital Fluency curriculum here

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