In my previous blogpost about building an Engineering Culture I briefly touched upon the pillar “Knowledge Driven”. This pillar is really about culture. About behaviour and about mindset. You can only have a knowledge driven culture if people are willing to share knowledge, and if people are open to receive it.
In many companies there are a handful of people that are very knowledgeable. Surely they answer questions when asked, and are willing to share some of the knowledge, but somehow knowledge is not truly transferred.
At Xpirit we like the mantra “ Show, Together, Alone”. In Dutch it sounds something like “voordoen, samen doen, zelf doen” which exactly translates to “we show you, we dot it together , you do it yourself”. That way, we make sure that we are not only there to answer questions but also to make sure people are able to do it themselves in the future. Of course this takes up more time, but on the longer term this is far more fruitful. Think of giving the hungry man a fish, or teach them how to fish (Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime – Quote Investigator®)
In order to do that you need to enable people to both share their knowledge and are able to receive it. Let’s dive a little in to how you can do that.
There are many ways to share knowledge and basically everything is fine. I think that sharing “some” knowledge is better than not sharing at all. What we see happening a lot is that people do not know what to talk about. They think what they know is not good enough, or it is not useful. Also, many companies try to “focus” the knowledge sharing in to all kinds of boxes, areas, topics or focus groups. I have learned that limitation and borders actually paralyse the people that want to share something. Just let people share what they want to share.
By letting go of the boundaries, people feel must more at ease buy sharing knowledge. And once the pressure is off, you can ask them to share something about a topic you have questions on. But do not start with that.
Also important. Sharing knowledge can be done in many different ways that are very different for different people. Some people like to present on a stage, some for large groups, and some for smaller groups. Other like to do workshops or brainstorm sessions. Some people like to write blog posts, some people like to record a podcast or a video. People like to share by putting code in a repo on GitHub and others just like to have 1:1 conversations.
The same principle applies here. Don’t limit your people. Enable them to share their knowledge. Make sure they know about conference where they can speak, let them organize a meetup, Help them with writing skills to start writing article. Facilitate them with good equipment to record something. Do a session on a conference together, Once you take away all the boundaries and concerns, people start t thrive.
At Xpirit we have multiple platforms where we share our knowledge. The most prominent ones are our Innovation Day and our XKE (Xebia Knowledge Exchange).
The XKE is a weekly event on a Tuesday where we come together as a team and share knowledge.We have a special app that holds all the sessions, and people can choose what they want. On a regular Tuesday there are about 4-5 parallel sessions. twice a month we do this sharing together with our Xebia colleagues and we run 15-20 sessions in paralel. Brainstorms, presentations, demo’s, code shows, rehearsals. It can be everything. As long as it is sharing
4 times a year we organize a Innovation day. Last week we had one in Motorworld in Cologne. There we come together as a team and do something “innovative”. What it is .. That is up to you. You can do anything you like, as long as it is innovative for you. Usually small groups of people work together to make something great. In many cases, they just learn something, but occasionally something beautiful comes out that becomes very popular in either the community or for customer.
This is a short paragraph. Receiving knowledge seems simple, but it is not. It is a mindset. It means, being open for other opinions, being open to learn, be connected to others. That seems simple, but is really hard. It already starts in the hiring process. You can hire the best of the best. The one that has all the knowledge, but changes are, that this will not improve. If you everything already, why would you be open to others. So, more importantly, check for mindset. What does someone know, but also what does someone not (yet) know. And how does someone deal with that?
Mindset is everything. To support people by being open, sometimes you need to take away some fears. Fears of being embarrassed or the fear of felling inferior. That can be done by just a good conversation, but sometimes issues are deeper that than. Help people with getting some coaching, help them grow on a personal level, help them deal with their personal issues. The business benefits are never measurable, but believe me. People will flourish and everyone will be better on the long term./
So make sure you don’t hire those Brilliant Jerks, but the people that can grow.
Why Netflix Doesn’t Tolerate Brilliant Jerks | Inc.com
In this blog post I gave you a little insight on sharing knowledge, some ideas how you can do that and hopefully some inspiration to appl him you own life and organization.
Hope this helps!