Knowledge is the cornerstone of a successful organisation. During the hiring process, we attempt to gauge the existing knowledge base of an applicant. We might also conduct some exercises that allow applicants to demonstrate how well they will be able to absorb and apply new knowledge in the future.

Simply put, companies value knowledgeable members. The more someone knows, the better they will be able to execute their role as well as being in a better position to teach colleagues important things about how the company operates. 

As a company executive or even a knowledge manager yourself, you have likely heard the terms “knowledge management” and “knowledge sharing” thrown around before. The aim of this piece is to break down the subtle differences between the two and explain how each contributes to the successful flow of knowledge within a company.

Knowledge sharing vs. knowledge management: What are the main differences?

For around 30 years, ‘knowledge management’ has been a buzzword in corporate circles. When it first emerged, it was seen as a revolutionary approach that ensured a steady flow of relevant knowledge across a company. It has been shown that 74% of organisations agree that effective knowledge management techniques have increased company productivity by 10 to 40%.

Exploring knowledge management

Let’s start off by demonstrating the importance of effective knowledge management: Fortune 500 companies are estimated to lose out on $31.5 billion every year due to poor knowledge management. 

That’s a lot of revenue to miss out on just because employees aren’t sure how to communicate their knowledge with each other.

At its core, knowledge management can be split into four main parts:

  • Creation
  • Storing and retrieving
  • Transferring
  • Applying

These labels might sound self-explanatory, but each one requires a lot of attention for the technique to be effective. There must be knowledge managers dedicated to the creation, storage, and ease of retrieval of all relevant company knowledge. It also needs to be made clear how this knowledge can be sent to other members of the organisation before being applied to a real-life situation.

An effective knowledge management program would be able to meet these three criteria:

  • Show the role knowledge plays within the organisation, and how it is used.
  • Foster a culture that relies on the dissemination and usage of shared knowledge.
  • Build an efficient knowledge infrastructure that can easily be used for collaboration.

Examples of knowledge management

As a simple example, think of mentoring and shadowing. Many companies still encourage new employees to shadow experienced employees in order to pick up valuable knowledge.

The problem with knowledge management

The ability to demonstrate how knowledge can be stored, retrieved, and shared was a great help for many organisations over previous decades. 

However, there has always been one key issue with knowledge management that became increasingly apparent as more companies set down roots across the globe. Knowledge management does not explicitly address how every individual in a company can access and share knowledge effectively. 

This problem developed into a solution known as knowledge sharing. The two should not be viewed as separate practices, but as extensions of each other. Bear this in mind when considering the ‘knowledge sharing vs. knowledge management’ debate.

Exploring knowledge sharing

As companies have moved into the 21st century, digital knowledge sharing techniques have taken over somewhat. 

Despite decades of knowledge management, many employees often felt reluctant to share their knowledge. Many felt that sitting on valuable pieces of information would enhance their own standing at the company. However, this trend is changing, with people often more than happy to contribute to a workplace full of shared knowledge.

With instant messaging and video content making it easier than ever to share information, many more employees are happier to take charge and individually send help to their colleagues. 

Examples of knowledge sharing

In the past, sharing tacit knowledge might have been a challenge. How could someone demonstrate to someone else exactly what they needed to do? Now, it’s easy to use the medium of video to record your screen and show someone exactly how a task is done. In fact, video is becoming a large part of knowledge sharing tactics: it’s processed up to 60,000 times faster than text

In office settings, another example of knowledge sharing would be organising a meeting for a small group of people to discuss what they need to know and what they’ve learned recently. A close-knit team of marketing executives, for example, would benefit greatly from meeting to share the latest tips and tricks they have learned that will aid in customer conversion.

Knowledge sharing vs. knowledge management: Both required for modern-day success

For a company to beat fast-paced competition, its members need to be more efficient than ever when it comes to sharing information.

For some, this will mean picking an online platform that is dedicated to saving employees hours of time every week. Elium offers a free trial of its information storage and collaboration tool

The next time someone needs to access a vital piece of information, they will be able to search for it at the click of a button with the knowledge-sharing power of Elium.