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Barriers to Effective Knowledge Sharing (Video)

Video produced by Steve Nathans-Kelly

At KMWorld 2019,  Margot Brown, World Bank director, KM, shared four common organizational culture challenges to knowledge sharing and how World Bank has addressed them at KMWorld 2019.

Effective capture and use of knowledge are important for any organization's success, said Brown. "When you come into an organization where the culture is particularly strong and particularly resilient, then you have to be prepared for the long haul and the chipping away at that culture."

In terms of the culture and norms, one of the first words Brown said she heard repeated at the bank was "incentives." Coming from the private sector, she said, incentives really didn't come into play when asking someone to actually do something which is part of their job. Having a job was an incentive. So, trying to figure out what could be done to shift behavior, and understanding how people at the bank tick was important.

"When you think about the bank, yes, it's a bank, it loans money and all of that," said Brown. "But it's also a consulting firm or an advisory services firm. It's an academic institution. It's an embassy. So, just the different perspectives that you see, it depends on who you're talking to. I think the other piece that was really important, and I've lumped it here under culture and norms, but it's the piece around process, to build process into people's routines. So it's just something that they do naturally when they come into the office in the morning. Our job, though, is to make it easy for them and for them to understand why and, again, to the incentives part, what's in it for them. At the bank, what does seem to resonate is recognition, particularly from peers."

Brown continued with a story:  "We had a town hall with our previous president, Jim Kim, and this is when we were launching a really significant program, maximizing finance for development. So it's crowding in private finance into public funded projects, a big effort. And Jim was talking about, Jim and I were on a first-name basis, Jim was talking about the challenge and how these people play a role, and he was calling out this person's name, so-and-so, so-and-so. "Are you in the audience?" And the guy waved and Jim said, "Stand up." And Jim talked for about two minutes about what this senior economist had done to really help to figure out how we were going to do this. And I was watching this senior economist. The look on his face to be recognized in a roomful of his peers and his colleagues by the president, I mean, just you could tell that this man was ready for anything else now after that."

This was a valuable learning experience, said Brown. "The other piece in terms of barriers that we want to address as quickly as possible is making sure that executive sponsorship is in place, having somebody who's credible, who is recognized in the institution, and who also believes in the work that is being done. Now that is the ideal. Very often, the person that we have, that we are reporting to, it's one of those things where knowledge management is important, but is not urgent. And the individual that you are working with, very often is dealing with really urgent stuff."

It very important to build a rapport, Brown added. "The way we have positioned it in the bank is we're a support function. Our job is to make the job of our teams and our project managers or task team leaders easier. When we start doing that, then we will actually have made an impact. Tools and technology. Know they're important, not as important as culture, not as important as executive sponsorship. But, in terms of how people think of knowledge management, I mean, it's a really esoteric concept, right? How many times have you had to explain to your mother what it is that you do."

The tools and technology are how people, and how knowledge management is manifested in the organization, said Brown. If those tools are not integrated, and if they aren't the right tools, you don't get to have other conversations with people about other problems, or other challenges or barriers that exist.

"And then, finally, the one I think that is most important is simply inertia," said Brown. "It's complacency within the organization. It's not realizing that the world is changing around you and your organization and, if you are not working as efficiently as possible, as effectively as possible, if you aren't having the impacts that you want to have, or, if you're in the private sector, if you're not generating the revenues that you need to satisfy your shareholders, then, like Kodak, you will not be around for very long. So it's creating that sense of urgency, creating that burning platform, not being the sky's falling, but certainly making it clear that this is important and, if it continues to be put off, it has consequences."

Videos of KMWorld 2019 awards presentations, keynotes, and many sessions can be found here.

Many speakers at KMWorld 2019 have also made their presentations available at www.kmworld.com/Conference/2019/Presentations.aspx.

SAVE THE DATE FOR KMWORLD 2020: NOVEMBER 16-19, 2020!

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