2. Where is the knowledge I want? Who want’s my knowledge?
The key question about sharing knowledge and ideas is about the right people/organizations to share it with. It’s about knowing who owns the knowledge you need and to whom your knowledge is of interest.
This is a matter of special relevance when talking about open innovation. Finding the right partner, with the right expertise and knowledge is one of the key factors for the success of an open innovation partnership. Although there are many other crucial factors to the success of an open innovation partnership, the truth is that one of the parts cannot bring added value to the table, if the knowledge is not shared or brought to the process, there’s no reason for the engagement of that same partner.
Source: https://pixabay.com/pt/vectors/conex%c3%b5es-comunica%c3%a7%c3%b5es-social-2099068/ (Image by Gordon Johnson)
So, some key facts:
- It’s the knowledge your organization own that allows the organization to operate
- The organization does not own all the knowledge – no organization is an island, it operates in a market, surrounded by stakeholders (from employees to customers, suppliers, competitors, industry experts, R&D centers that produce knowledge of value to the business, etc.)
- Knowledge flows throughout all the personal and business interactions. Either intentionally shared and acquired, either unintentionally shared and acquired
- To survive and grow, the organization needs to keep evolving in terms of knowledge acquired and produced. Knowledge grows when it’s shared!
- Only people are able to create knowledge
- Socialization is a key part of the knowledge creation process.
And two key questions must be posed:
- What does my organization know and to whom it may be of interest?
- Who owns the knowledge I need outside my organizations?
Both inside and outside the organization, the key task is to know “who knows what”!
To be ready to take full advantage of the knowledge and ideas sharing process with the external environment, your organization needs to be prepared to deal with the process internally. First, you need to invest on developing an internal knowledge and ideas sharing culture
Sharing knowledge and ideas externally is highly related with your networking capabilities. But it’s important to be focused and attentive to what you share and what you receive. At the end of the day, you need to keep in mind that knowledge is power when put into ACTION!
Some tips to support a fruitful knowledge and ideas share (and acquisition) externally:
- Any person of your organization can be a bridge between the organization and the external environment, either through their own person social network either through their job relations. Investing in an internal knowledge culture will support to take full advantage of the external knowledge and ideas sharing with the exterior;
- Know who knows what inside your organization and which are their external professional connections. These people can play a key role sharing and capturing knowledge in a specific field. E.g., sales managers and their team are, most likely, in the front line to share and capture knowledge and ideas with/from customers. All this knowledge and ideas must, then, find the channels to flow across the organization;
- Recognize and embrace what you don’t know. No organizations own all the knowledge and there’s no weakness in that. Actually, investing in what you do best and look for partnerships to complement and bring the knowledge you don’t own can be the wisest thing to do!
- Protect your knowledge! There are several tools to protect the knowledge you produce to prevent others from stealing the value you create and, eventually, act against you. In some countries, in particular to SMEs, Intellectual Property protection can be seen as useless as it involves high costs and a very bureaucratic process. But, if this is your case, think on the costs of having the knowledge you have created taken by others. At the minimum, when you enter a partnership for open innovation, make sure there are signed Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) to prevent other partner from taking advantage of knowledge you own and want to keep safe!
- Finding the right partners, with the right knowledge and expertise it’s not, necessarily, a simple and easy process:
- Don’t get “stuck” with the geographical proximity of the possible partners. Just because they are right next door doesn’t mean they are the ideal ones to start a collaboration with knowledge and ideas sharing;
- Know exactly what you are looking for and do your search. Look for partners profiles, portfolios, types of collaboration they have been engaged, check their market reputation;
- Get help to search for the right partners. At regional, national and European levels there’s a lot of organizations that can help you find the right partner – business and industry associations, chambers of commerce, Enterprise Europe Network, among other such as private consulting companies
- Socialization is the base of knowledge creating and social networks are an important part of the knowledge and ideas sharing process. Give your company the space to talk and to listen, also at external level:
- Attend business and industry events and fairs
- Participate in business missions abroad
- Check your local/regional/national business and industry associations and chambers of commerce services and events and take advantage of the opportunities offered
- Don’t be afraid to connect with big companies or with start-ups. Collaborations between companies with different profiles can be very fruitful and each type can bring a different type of added value
- Don’t ignore the power of the IT solutions! Even though the ICT revolution is still very far away from replacing in person contact in the process of knowledge creation, it can still be a very power support to the knowledge and ideas sharing process. It will help find and contact with key partners to whom your knowledge is of interest as well as those owning knowledge that is of your interest! Tools social media platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook) can be of interest to help you identify important partners and find more about their reputation and pool of knowledge, online forums can help you with the exchange of ideas and knowledge and during times like the ones we are living with the COVID-19 pandemics and lockdowns it can help you keep in contact with anyone in any part of the globe.
- Communities of Practice (CoP) and other forms of peer communities are perfect places to exchange ideas and knowledge
- Benchmarking is a very interesting tool to support knowledge and ideas exchange. Often performed by external consultors and seen as a tool to “beat the competition”, it is, actually, a very good tool to learn with others best practices and share your own best practices, allowing to identify the gaps in the organizations that can be bridged with this learned best practices
Source: https://pixabay.com/pt/illustrations/silhueta-cabe%c3%a7a-estante-saber-1793916/ (Image by Gerd Altman)