Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Closing the knowledge sharing gap to increase team performance

There are not too many things that I enjoy about flying, the long waits, sitting in airport lounges, the confinement of a cabin for extended amounts of time. However, one of the things that I do enjoy is meeting people, typically business people who, like me, are trying to solve real problems.

On a recent international flight I got talking to a gentleman who works for a company based in New Zealand. I was rather intrigued with what he was telling me about the products and services his company supplied to various parts of the world. They sell machinery that connects to satellite systems to manage crops. The machines use GPS to track soil samples. The soil is tested, and the machines then know where to sprinkle the right amount of fertilizer without over doing or under doing a certain part of a field. Therefore, the farmer is able to reduce the waste of excess fertilizer and also yield a better harvest.

As we were talking we discussed some of the challenges in doing business. He made a comment about how some of his Australian sales representatives were outselling their New Zealand counterparts. It is important, to him that his sales people are able to spend time together to gain some insights into what works and what doesn’t. Therefore, he was flying his team from all over the world to be together at the same location.

This got me thinking about what I refer to as the “Knowledge sharing gap”. This is a gap that exists in almost all organization’s whether large or small. I’m sure that I hardly need to convince you of this being a problem within your organization.

Several factors, lines of business, departments, geographic location, and language often cause this knowledge-sharing gap to manifest itself. I generally refer to each of these as silos. I am always interested in hearing from people about examples of how this sort of thing affects them within their particular role. While the farmer is able to collect data that leads to decisions that reduce costs and increase their yield, they also gain a significant competitive advantage. Providing ways to transfer information among employees, suppliers and customers allows a business to leverage human capital to help the business as a whole. To be able to provide the information to the right people at the right time has a direct cost benefit associated to it.

When working with and teams of people, it's important to ensure that they have the relevant tools to enable them to share information in real-time. It’s important, that team members have a platform upon which they can share their stories and experience. By being able to share stories and experiences the rest of the team are able to engage in conversation to help them gain new insights.

One of the key components of a Social Business is a business that is able to encourage the sharing of ideas and experiences. By enabling these ideas and experiences to become a part of a conversation, team members will be able to solve problems in a shorter amount of time, creating a sense of agility and nimbleness.

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