When I started my knowledge-sharing group in 2008, one of the first topics members wanted to discuss was “top tips for improving knowledge-sharing”. After the discussion had been going for a while, one of the members said how interesting it was to hear our discussion: she’d worked in know-how a while ago, gone back to fee earning for a couple of years, and, now she had come back to know-how, everyone was still discussing the same problems.
At first I wondered why the problem was intractable. Later I realised how natural it is that “knowledge-sharing” hasn’t been perfected/fixed/ticked off yet. Firms, people and culture continuously change.
Firms strive to improve their businesses: to head off new competitors, to be more profitable, to secure the firm in the long-term. People change: they change firms and individually they adapt and change through their working lives. Work practices change and the Law changes. Demands on fee earners’ time are varied and targets generally get tougher. Those working in know-how will always want more time to be spent on Knowledge work, than the time that is available.
The purpose of this post, however, is not to make everyone give up now, but to remind people that:
- improving knowledge-sharing it is a tricky problem for everyone, whatever the size of their firm
- there are lots of practical things that you can do
- it’s a work in progress, a problem that won’t ever be entirely “fixed”
With this in mind, why not just do something, even a little something, to improve things? Do a little something today and a little something else next month.
Do a little something even if you are in the middle of your strategy review or planning a large project. Most people can find 15-30 mins out of the whole of a month. It can’t hurt and it’ll probably help.
If you are struggling with ideas or where to start, why not pick one of these? For each suggestion, remember to keep it small: do something for one person, or try something out once. If it doesn’t work you’ve lost little time. If it does work either do it again or try something else.
- Arrange to see a single trainee or new starter and show them how your knowledge systems work and how they benefit them personally and the firm generally. This shouldn’t be a fancy presentation in a booked meeting room with tea/coffee, this is a 15 min desk-based Q&A.
- Pick someone who is trying to get to grips with knowledge-based marketing, trying to arrange a seminar or write an article for their trade press, perhaps. Show them all the different ways they can leverage the one piece of “knowledge” that they create as a result and reduce/reuse/recycle efficiently. Read more here.
- Pick a single success story about your team’s Knowledge work and spread the word around the firm. You don’t have to plan a marketing campaign, just get the word out about one single success, however small.
- Pick a single fee earner and find out a single “knowledge” problem that they have and spend 15-20 minutes working on that – if you succeed in helping even a little, you’ll not only start to fix their problem, but gain a champion.
- Think of a situation where a knowledge-sharing project hasn’t succeeded as you had hoped. Start a private reflective note about what you would do differently next time. Be honest – you don’t have to share this with anyone. It doesn’t have to be particularly long or in any particular style. You don’t have to fix what went wrong with that project. You just need to mull it over and continue to write a few notes now and then, over a period of time. You will find that you learn lessons and improve your practice as a result (and if you don’t, you’ve at least had some practise at/experience of reflective learning).
- Find a single lunchtime/evening/breakfast to go along to a knowledge-sharing group. You don’t have to find the time to commit to going every time, just go once.
- Make a mindmap of ideas to improve knowledge-sharing. You don’t have to do any of them this month, just map out the ideas ready.
- Find a single blogpost one of your fee earners has written about their topic and find another blog where it would make a good guest post.
- Think of a fee earner who has gone the extra mile in relation to knowledge-sharing and take them a coffee and say thanks.
- Look at your most recent KM strategy and pick one objective. Write it on a card and pin it somewhere where you can see it. Promise yourself that you will think of one small way each month that you can take a babystep towards that goal each month.
What simple ideas do you have to suggest and how do you keep motivated to continuously improve knowledge-sharing?
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And thanks to Jamie Lee Wallace for the idea for this post. I enjoyed her “Overwhelmed by marketing?” post enormously.
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