Sharing is Caring: How Failing to Share Knowledge is Costing You $30 Billion a Year

Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve been working on a particular initiative and after some time you’ve found out that someone else in the company has been planning on the same project, but none of you knew? Or, writing your entire document from scratch without the critical pieces of information that you know exists within the archives of your company but which you don’t know where to find from? Or even worse, working in a team where the mates are so competitive that they passive aggressively refuse to share what they know?

Yeah, its dreadful, and not just on sentimental level. Research shows that even Fortune 500 companies fall flat by losing at least $31.5 billion per year when they fail in knowledge-sharing.

This isn’t exactly breaking news: since the 1990s, companies and organizations have tried to enhance their information management and knowledge-sharing by investing tremendous amounts of money and energy to better the situation but it has shown no impressive results, if any at all.

Financial journalist Gillian Tett has coined a term — ‘the silo effect’ — for mismanagement of communication and mishandling of knowledge. The silo effect takes place when different teams within the same organization or community don’t have direct communication with each other, and the person sharing knowledge is not aware of the person learning. As a result, huge measures of institutional knowledge is produced and lost concurrently, causing damage to the organization’s productivity, efficiency and development.

Despite the array of technological advancements and the availability of various digital methods that allow employees to be more interconnected, 86 percent of employees and executives cite ineffective communication as the prime reason that causes workplace failures. For 75 percent of employers team work is “very important”, but only 18 percent of employees actually see this implemented in practice.

If we start analyzing, we notice that most of the organizations use casual internal chat systems or emailing services to facilitate communication between their staff; for new recruits, there is the watch-and-learn approach where the new team member is expected to learn their way in by observing others.

However, as industries are becoming more complicated and specialized, it is no longer enough that the new members simply imitate what they’ve learned — they need information and they need to learn how to turn that information into knowledge that can be used in a constantly evolving, fast- paced environments.

What exacerbates the situation is our dependance on email. Email has been used as the means for communication for almost four decades now, even though it was not initiated for this purpose; far from it, email was supposed to be an inter-organizational paper-based mail system, but we have now built our main communications around it.

What makes the current emailing services flawed is that they don’t offer consistent communication, nor do they help us with organizational transparency. Besides, you can’t really forward all the existing documents via email to a new recruit and presume they will get it; they need to have the preamble as well as the context of the document in order to be able to use the knowledge they have been given in praxis.

The educational researchers have studied a great deal into what approaches help kids learn in schools, but rarely have we tried to understand how our communities in the work place learn about the work they do (that they could do better). A recently launched platform called Nested has recognized that people learn better when there is a two-way interactive dialogue; when the person sharing knowledge and the person learning are on the same page. This doesn’t mean that the two always need to be present, but that the experience and the knowledge of the sharer would always be available for the learner, even if the sharer itself wouldn’t.

This is how the founders of Nested came up with the idea to present a team-to-team communication platform that would offer a communal environment for creating, storing, sharing, and transferring information that would be beneficial for smaller teams just as well as for larger enterprises. It’s a blend of DropBox, Slack and email, with the benefits that heighten the user’s coherency and efficiency when communicating online.

One of their features is what they call ‘the Place feature’, which, according to their own words, helps the user with setting up various digital Places that resemble their real-life places and communities — except that on Nested’s platform knowledge transfer and connection-building will be both stress-free and paper-free (yes to sustainability!).

It can be inevitable for certain teams at different organizations to forget that particular facts and concepts that are so basic and familiar to them can be entirely unknown to someone else. Nested embraces knowledge-sharing by giving both the learners and the leaders a jump-start towards a more systematic, consistent, and quicker communication and learning, which has proven to bring out the best a team or an organization has to offer.

As we have entered the month of New Year’s resolutions, and opened our sleek new calendars to mark the first blank pages of our 365-day journey, many things are on our list to be achieved for the year ahead of us. We can’t magically bring back to life our favorite artist that 2016 took with it as it faded into history, can’t suddenly lose those 20 pounds that we’ve been postponing to lose once the new year begins, can’t really expect to get a date by the Valentine’s day, but we can change the way we communicate and share knowledge — starting today.

Playwright Oscar Wilde was once quoted saying, “The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on,” and although this quote dates back to the mid-18th century era, now more so than ever it rings true. Productivity happens when effective communication and opportunity meet, and as it appears, Nested has been created precisely to utilize that.