Finding knowledge in the dark

Imagine a dictionary that is not ordered alphabetically….

You could perhaps use it to start a fire, but apart from that it would be quite useless unless its words are ordered alphabetically. All the information will be there, but it is extremely inaccessible. Imagine the frustration knowing that the definition of ‘inchoate’ is somewhere in the book, and you desperately need it to look smart in your next email to your boss, but you simply wouldn’t know where to start looking for it. 

Some knowledge-intensive organizations have the same problem. They are filled with extremely knowledgeable individuals, who collectively hold at least as much knowledge as the Oxford dictionary. However, this knowledge can only by fully utilized if employees are aware of the location of this knowledge.

If Sarah is an expert in Python and Bill needs some help programming, Sarah can only be of use to Bill if he knows that she knows Python. Imagine that Bill works on the ground floor and Sarah on the 8th floor of a fairly large company. They have never met, and chances are small that they will bump into each other at the coffee machine and start talking about Python. So Bill starts asking other colleagues if they know somebody who knows Python, and in the meantime tries to figure it out himself online. An extremely tedious and inefficient process.

Research by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) found that high-skilled knowledge workers spend nearly 20% of their time searching for internal information or tracking down colleagues to help with specific tasks. That’s 20% of their time not adding value to the organization, 20% of their time browsing a dictionary without an alphabetical order.

That is 1 day per work week or 1 in every five employees!

Knowledge management systems can smooth this process by making all the knowledge of the individuals in your organization instantly findable.

How do you find the colleague with the knowledge you need in your organization?

What would you do with that extra time if it went quicker?

Sign up for our newsletter