“Don’t force it” is one of the best lessons you can learn — in life, in love and, of course, in knowledge management.

Knowledge management, the practice of aggregating and sharing knowledge across an organization, is one of the most beneficial initiatives a company can take to optimize their processes. But it is also something that is best accomplished organically.

The questions are, "Why does natural knowledge sharing outplay forced transfer? And how can you both encourage knowledge sharing without making it mandatory?"

The Desire to Learn

For the majority of people, learning can be a negative, stiffening experience.

Instead of forced knowledge sharing, organizations must implement an organic approach that prioritizes the natural and real-time needs of people — when knowledge is needed to be more productive or solve a problem.

Organic knowledge transfer honors the power of the question — the “why” is just as important as the “how.”

If an organization attempts to force knowledge sharing by making it a requirement, it is inadvertently rewarding only the creation of knowledge.

In that sense, there is no tangible benefit for asking the right questions.

Tapping Pride and Accomplishment

Organic knowledge transfer is more valuable because it naturally appeals to those who have the most beneficial knowledge to share.

When someone is voluntarily offering to share what he has learned, it’s often out of a sense of pride, accomplishment or sense of expertise. When knowledge transfer is organic, and people share because they want to.

They will share information of high value — and the increase in answers will be exponential.

When you force knowledge transfer, you change it from a situation where people share only what they really want to empower other members of a team to sharing because it’s a requirement.

Understanding Knowledge Sharing

To bring this full circle, it's important to understand that knowledge sharing should be fostered and celebrated as a voluntary process.

To incorporate organic knowledge transfer into your company culture and create a natural organizational tendency towards sharing knowledge, remember these three basic ideas:

Reward the question and the answer.

Never forget the power of the question. The “why” is just as important as the “how." Encourage employees to ask questions at the moment of need, and let the answers flow – then document them. When it becomes natural for people to ask and answer questions, and to access your knowledgebase or online community when they need to an answer, you’ll be well on your way to a culture of organic knowledge sharing.

Make knowledge transfer fun.

It might seem obvious, but many people have an inherently negative view of learning. Years of restrictive, structured knowledge transfer has made learning burdensome. So change the perception. Offer prizes at specific milestones and reward people for contributing. By appealing to your employee’s competitive nature – while also making the process of knowledge management fun – you will be rewarding organic knowledge sharing and helping to ingrain learning into your cultural composition.

Start from the top down.

When the executives in your organization are willing to ask questions and provide answers, it will have a trickle-down effect. If the leaders in your organization can lead by example when it comes to organizational learning, it can have a real impact on growing your organic knowledge transfer culture.

If you keep these three hints in mind and encourage a culture of organic knowledge transfer, your organization can begin to reap the benefits of knowledge management. Give it a try and see how organic knowledge transfer can help elevate your business to the next level.

Title image "Tiger Drops 2" (CC BY 2.0) by The Blue Boy