sharing a computer screen
Knowledge sharing provides business value on multiple fronts PHOTO: Thomas Leuthard

Knowledge management (KM) and digital asset management (DAM) initiatives have a lot in common. 

Both aim to manage assets that create value across the enterprise, and both aim to help individuals find and reuse these assets.   

When done right, knowledge management improves performance by sharing knowledge and sharing new ideas across the enterprise — that can lead to innovations. 

What I find interesting about knowledge management and DAM from a theoretical perspective are the individual psychological motives behind sharing or not sharing information.  

As an archivist, digital asset manager, librarian or information professional (whatever it is that I'm called these days) I’ve always wanted to reduce the number of access restrictions on records. It doesn’t matter if it’s a U.S. Congress members collection of records, historical newspapers and photographs from the state of Oklahoma, a best practice paper that I’m working on this week for Bynder or photographs from my most recent trip — what I am legally and ethically allowed to and able to share, I will. 

The International Council on Archives urges organizations to protect “corporate memory,”  but it’s difficult to protect fragmented, disparate pockets of knowledge in various systems and tools without a culture of willingness or drive to share content and ideas. After all, individuals are the custodians of their own record outputs and ultimately have the decision to share or not share with others.

The Benefits of Knowledge Sharing

Knowledge sharing is about doing better business. It’s also about increasing transparency across the enterprise. 

Having knowledge sharing as part of your core business strategy increases innovation, learning, efficiency and gives your company a competitive advantege. 

Initiatives like town halls, wikis, knowledge bases/knowledge repositories, Q&A boards and expert directories can help your organization work more efficiently. What these initiatives have in common is the discovery, transmission or codification of knowledge.  

Documentation of business processes ensures that if a member of the team leaves the company, the important knowledge that they have is not lost for the remaining team members or for future employees.  

One thing that’s always driven me nuts with DAM projects are stakeholders who intentionally silo data without a business reason. I’m not talking about a high profile product launch that needs to remain under wraps until the go-live date. I’m talking about the tension that arises when individuals try to take ownership of company assets — the quest for power by capturing data that does not belong to you and keeping it under wraps for control over others.  

Knowledge is power, yet knowledge is not always easily accessible in some organizations. Sometimes organizations unintentionally become disparate pockets of knowledge. When companies grow larger, communications and knowledge sharing can become a game of telephone or a game of “Where’s Waldo?”  

What Do You Share and What Remains Private?

Law and ethics determine some of the balance between transparency and privacy. But individual sharing preferences also come into play.  

Some companies embrace transparency to the point that salary is everyone’s business. Some companies record every meeting and value extreme honesty even if it incites conflict.  

Digital asset management can inadvertently increase knowledge sharing and transparency as well. It’s all on the record when you upload it to the DAM, unless you actively take measures to silo it. Before putting access restrictions on assets, you should ask yourself:

  • What is the primary reason to keep this digital asset or this knowledge private?
  • Is it an ethical or legal reason?
  • Is it embarrassment of sharing an idea that might get rejected?
  • Would sharing this with others benefit my organization?
  • Am I afraid that sharing this will cause someone else to take my idea or take credit for my work?

Barring any legal and ethical restraints, you should embrace sharing — and here’s why:   

Our records are not only part of our work output, or contributions to a field of study, or part of a marketing campaign to sell a product. Our records are proof of our existence in a specific period of time, and our digital records allow our ideas to reach beyond our own time in a company, beyond the restraints of analog information retrieval systems. Our digital records can be indexed and searched in real time and new ideas can emerge from sharing our work output.  

This is how we stand on the shoulders of giants: by sharing without fear and by relinquishing control over information that doesn't need to be controlled.  

Create a Culture of Sharing

In a sense, being open about your work, what you do and why you are doing it is about being brave. 

Marshall School of Business professor Ira Kalb writes, “To create an innovative culture and climate, managers need to make sure that all employees know that innovation is a job requirement.”  On the other hand, to create a culture of sharing, managers need to communicate that knowledge sharing is a necessity by setting the example and encouraging this behavior.  

My company has a mantra that sharing is caring, and without ever explicitly requiring or mandating it, we organically share knowledge which leads to increased collaboration and better business. If there is something you want to learn about a different department or if you are interested in the workflow of a different team, the atmosphere of openness and eagerness to share and learn from others encourages you to find out.   

This kind of attitude, in turn, organically drives adoption of systems across our entire digital ecosystem because these tools facilitate our communications across a geographically distributed team of marketers, engineers, senior leadership executives, sales executives and consultants. 

In the case of my workplace, the culture happened organically. We took part in KM initiatives unknowingly, driven by the desire to do our very best. To create a culture of sharing you have to be willing to open up to others, and embrace the potential to fail — otherwise learning and innovation will never take place.