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Knowledge Transfer explained: Learn, Share, and Profit

8 mins read

Knowledge transfer refers to sharing or disseminating knowledge and providing inputs to problem solving.

All across the globe, people are training to be specialists in their respective fields, putting thousands of hours into perfecting their craft. From there, they join massive organizations, putting their skills to task and integrating themselves into a corporate network designed to serve the customer.

But is limiting these special skills to a few people really in the best interests of the customer? Should customers have to cross heaven and hell to reach someone with the technical expertise to solve their problem – you can bet they aren’t going to be doing it again.

Companies quickly realized that while specialists were an absolute must for the creation of exemplary services – transferring their knowledge across the organization for general use would ensure the growth of the company itself, with more resources available for utilization more knowledge to solve unique customer problems. Knowledge transfer is defined as a method of transferring knowledge from one person, department, or part of a company, to another.

This transfer not only allowed organizations to arm the average employee with more knowledge and power – but it also opened the door to different departments working more closely than ever before. With empowered employees and dynamic departments sharing data horizontally, strong Knowledge management systems allow organizations to grow ever more efficient in problem-solving, dramatically increasing customer satisfaction.

This, in a nutshell, is why knowledge transfer is a core component of any successful company.

For example, picture a shoe company penetrating a new, seaside market, pushing their collection of summer colors and vibes. Business is stagnating, however, as they’re late entrants in a saturated summer fashion market.

Someone in customer services realizes the shoes are great for running on the beach due to its extended flat sole base, but not on the hard ground it was originally advertised for, as the soles are too thin. They get this information through online feedback and additional metrics like which areas of town saw high purchasing and usage of the shoe – sandy shored beaches.

They now have two options:

1. Keep this knowledge hoarded, as the employee no involvement in developing or marketing, thus cut off from the process impacting overall output. This hinders employee’s morale as an asset to the team.

2. Share this knowledge with his sales team at HQ through a knowledge transfer system designed for exactly this purpose.

Should route 2 be available to him, the above-mentioned sales department can use the same knowledge transfer system to acquire this knowledge and incorporate it into their tactics.

The next campaign advertises flat-soled shoes for comfort beach running – and demand in the city is through the roof.

As companies grow in size, however, their KM must evolve to match to keep a smooth transfer of knowledge. As hundreds of people across the world begin to work together, some of the most common teething issues faced with knowledge transfer are:

Distance factor in knowledge transfer:

Time Zones are the primary hurdle here – even with the capability to send limitless data across the globe in mere seconds – there tended to be a lag or delay in the transfer of knowledge. For decades, businessmen flew across continents to conduct business – at great cost to the company itself. But the synchronization of business demanded it – until the advent of KM and knowledge sharing systems through new connect-and-share technologies.

Language, culture, and perspective barriers in knowledge transfer:

Knowledge sharing isn’t the end of it all – that knowledge must be in an understandable format for the recipient to benefit from it. Centralized communication protocols shared across companies through knowledge management tools have helped combat this, and Knowledge Transfer plays a massive role in the standardization of protocols – taking cultural nuances, regional misunderstandings, and different perspectives right out of the picture. Everyone’s on the same page.

Lack of awareness, initiative, or trust:

These are human barriers that can stop the flow of knowledge transfer. A lack of awareness of the importance of sharing knowledge, of the importance of one’s skills and sharing it, and of the channels available to share information will all stop employee’s from passing on vital information. Further, a lack of incentives tied to the sharing of knowledge will hinder progress, as people hoard knowledge to themselves in an attempt to ransom it for power and position. Recognising the importance of Knowledge Transfer also means recognizing the importance of those who possess the knowledge, to begin with – and this value must be made felt.

As with any large-scale process, knowledge transfer plans must be set up with attention to detail, personnel, and with sustainability in mind. Above, we see several barriers or hurdles to knowledge transfers – some human, some technological. A good knowledge management software or company will help overcomes these barriers and constantly boost your ability to share data for the common good.

But before we can share information, we must acquire it. After we share it, we must apply it – there’s no point in information known, and never used.
So, if you’re looking to set up a knowledge transfer system, we’ve summed up the steps for a successful migration below:

1. Identify and acquire

What skills does your company need to succeed? What areas of expertise would benefit you the most if studied? Who are the people who create ideas, and who executes them? Identify what you’re after; hire the skills currently absent from your company, and aggregate knowledge gained.

2. Store

You’ve found your source of knowledge. Now you need an infrastructure to store it in an easily accessible format. Think Google Drive or cloud services – this is the well of information people will dip into.

3. Transfer your knowledge

Here’s where your knowledge management plan makes a massive difference. Spreading knowledge is the primary purpose of this exercise, but you don’t want crossed channels drowning people in information not relevant to them.
A good KM firm will help you streamline the transfer of knowledge to relevant departments, set up a system of sharing between them, and examine feedback to ensure your data is going where it truly needs to go.

4. Application

Knowledge transfers are only effective if the knowledge is applicable. Knowledge management tools will give you the metrics to see if applied knowledge is getting the required results. For example, if knowledge is shared from a customer service department regarding common complaints about a product, a development team can then apply that knowledge to further improve the product and use knowledge management metrics to judge if positive customer interaction increases as a result.

Simply creating a knowledge transfer framework isn’t enough; however, you keep the system self-sustaining and long-lasting. While KM experts can help you institute the system, successful knowledge transfer depends on internal processes as well. Here’s how:

Cultivate a culture of sharing ideas, new and old:

Innovative solutions, ancient remedies, brilliant ideas, or unconventional hacks that work – the discovery of new knowledge is vital to the growth of a company. But creating a culture of knowledge sharing where these ideas are spread is even more important – or new knowledge will serve no purpose.
Encourage the pursuit, and sharing of new knowledge through discovery programs, investment in ideation, and incentives to break any communication or personal barriers that may hinder the sharing of data for problem-solving.

An effective knowledge management platform enables a constant transfer of knowledge and keeps ideas flowing through your organization in all directions, with your company simply riding the wave to success.

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