We spend a lot of time thinking about our work as knowledge thought leaders, driving the knowledge development/knowledge sharing (KD/KS) process in the organizations where we are employed. And as I’ve been re-reading Brain Reich and Dan Solomon (their book Media Rules! Mastering Today’s Technology to Connect with and Keep Your Audience), I’m even more convinced now that it’s the communication “piece” that makes success happen when we’re seeking to build a knowledge culture in workplace.
Whether we’re dealing with an external goal (like trying to bring a product to market – or keep it there) or working within the organization (like seeking to meet the needs of the people who come to the knowledge services business unit), we have to give attention to how people get the word, how they learn about what we have to offer, and how to take us up on it.
It’s communication, and communicating with specific and directed tools to different target groups. But that communication has to be built on a foundation that gets people interested enough to learn what we do and to have respect for what we do (as well as understand what the pay-off will be for them, of course).
Reich and Solomon give us the clue: “Everything is social,” they say. “All of it is reputation driven.”
Reputation. And influence. Because the people who are listened to in the larger enterprise, the people with influence, are the people who have the reputation for being right, for being worth listening to. How do they do it? How do we build influence and strengthen our reputation?
There are five critical elements.
Core Vision and Responsibility
The knowledge services business unit – and the services it provides – won’t go far if the director/manager and organizational leaders have not agreed on what they want to unit to be. It’s time to get rid of old-fashioned words and descriptions that call up an image that does not relate to the work being done. If the business unit is supporting the corporate business strategy, that must be stated. What words are used to title the knowledge services business unit and describe its products, services, and consultations? Do they make sense?
Related to this (from an organizational management perspective) is responsibility. Who has management and service delivery responsibility for the knowledge services unit? What happens when its work is not successful? Who gets the kudos when the services of the knowledge services business lead to an enterprise-wide success?
The Best Team
The playing field is full these days, and there are a lot of knowledge workers out there who are – how do we say it kindly? – perhaps not up to the demands and do not have the qualifications to perform as well as the company requires. Move on, and establish the knowledge services business unit as the best managed and best staffed business unit in the organization. In today’s knowledge workplace, the company can’t afford mediocre knowledge services professionals. So hire the best people and give them the best and most interesting work you can find.
At the same time, we know success in knowledge services is all about partnering, so link up with other business units that are doing really good work. Identify departments and sections that are succeeding and succeeding well. Identify (with their leaders, of course) how the knowledge services business unit and that department can share resources, responsibilities, and – of course – success.
Perfection? Perhaps Not
Relax about seeking perfection. We knowledge workers know that our profession’s reputation (especially when we were librarians) was built on tracking down every last resource to ensure that the patron got every bit of information we could provide, just in case they needed it.
Perhaps that approach is not necessary anymore. As Anh Huynh points out in a recent article about specialized libraries working with a company’s business development staff, it’s important to understand clients’ needs and preferences. It’s our job to “seek to determine the ‘good enough’ point” when providing information and knowledge services. We need to work with the user to ensure that we don’t go overboard, wasting scarce resources. Sometimes “good enough” truly is good enough.
Integrity, Honesty, and Openness
There shouldn’t be any need to mention this when we speak about knowledge services, but we still find ourselves hearing about ethical lapses, betrayed confidences, and inattention of intellectual property basics.
Not good. Word gets around. Whether inside the company or through some public awkwardness, people will know (probably sooner rather than later) when some stupid decision has damaged the reputation of a colleague or, worse, of a department or business unit. Transparency – except in proprietary or otherwise privileged situations – does much to sustain integrity, and it should be encouraged in all transactions involving the knowledge services business unit.
Generosity Trumps Privacy
If there’s any single attribute that guarantees KD/KS success, it’s generosity. Bruce Rosenstein describes beautifully how generosity was built into Peter Drucker’s management philosophy in his new book, Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life, and I’m so taken with this idea that I’m sure I’ll be coming back to it from time to time. For now, though, let’s just remember that it is through the generosity of knowledge professionals – and their generosity in giving of themselves and their time to see another person or another unit succeed – that ultimately builds the reputation of the knowledge services business unit. The success of knowledge professinals is summed up in their generosity.