In the business world, things tend to come and go. There are trends, which ebb and flow fairly quickly, and there are practices, which usually have more staying power until there is evidence to demonstrate value in revamping the practice. When it comes to knowledge management (KM), there are some aspects that fall somewhere in between trend and practice, but the value of solidifying the knowledge management workflow in today’s professional atmosphere means understanding why the practices and trends need to shift.
Historically, supply-side KM has been the dominant philosophy within organisations. This approach followed the idea that information should be passed from the top to the bottom, supplying individuals with information when and where needed. While there is value to be found in allowing subject matter experts to share information in that manner, today’s transitioning workforce finds equal importance in the ability to collaborate, combine and share knowledge from the bottom up. For this reason, the growth of demand-side KM has gathered momentum.
To remain competitive, companies must evolve with the needs and expectations of their knowledge workers. Here are five reasons that justify a shift from supply-side knowledge management to demand-side knowledge management:
1. The technology is better
Before the Digital Era, tracking, documenting, and retrieving shared knowledge was somewhat of a headache. It required manual action at each step of the way, often leaving employees feeling as though it was simply another piece of the job, with very little reward to show for the extra work. Now, with the growth of voice-to-text technology, as well as the vastly increased accessibility to the digital community, there are more streamlined ways to incorporate demand-side knowledge sharing into the professional setting.
2. Collaboration is valued more than ever before
Supply-side knowledge sharing was overly dependent on a top-down model, but as technology has matured, the need for collaboration has matured along with it. Relying on company leaders to supply knowledge or ideas has opened up into a system that values the input from team members across the board.
3. New knowledge drives industry shifts
Because supply-side knowledge management supplies information to people when needed, there was little need to develop new knowledge. Now, with the sheer amount of information available, curious minds are questioning norms, prizing the creation of new information equally with existing knowledge. The desire for new knowledge is a driving power behind some of the industry shifts, both technologically and philosophically.
4. Company leaders support knowledge sharing
Leadership often has the unenviable task of harnessing and managing knowledge from employees who fear that knowledge sharing will make themselves disposable to the company. But as these organisations have begun to value collaboration and new knowledge creation, leadership has begun to fully support demand-side knowledge creation, allowing employees to feel less threatened by knowledge sharing.
5. The marketplace demands it
Before feedback channels, such as social media and review sites, companies could handle business practices in relative isolation. Today, the sharing of workplace environments, benefits, leadership styles, etc., can be found for just about any company with an online presence. Employees have the ability to look for companies that better fit their needs, a shift that has brought the playing field to a more level position.
Companies that do not support collaboration, knowledge sharing, creativity or individual value can quickly become an undesirable place for not only prospective job seekers, but existing talent.
The supply-side vs. demand-side conversation is happening at many organisational levels, and the truth is, there is a place for both practices as the situation calls. However, many of the 'traditional' tenets of supply-side knowledge management have become outdated, and supplementing the practice with the innovative demand-side knowledge management practices could make all the difference throughout an organisation.
Caitlin Zucal at DZone