How would your company survive if you had to leave it in someone else’s hands? Does anyone else critically understand the complexity of the company’s past and present, not to mention your aspirations for its future? The hardest part, for some entrepreneurs, about starting a company, is setting up a system so that the company can maximize the knowledge of the founders and continue to learn from its own mistakes over the years.
This field is called knowledge management and, when done successfully, it will perpetuate the brilliance and brand of your company far into the future. In fact, it could foster innovation, streamline processes, and enhance employee retention rates, all leading to higher revenues! You may be thinking, “That sounds great, but how am I supposed to manage knowledge when I’m spending my time running a business?” Fair point. Knowledge management takes time and it takes intentionality on the parts of both the founders and their employees.
You already have knowledge!
The first step is recognizing the knowledge that you, your employees, and your company as a whole already have. There are two types of institutional knowledge: explicit and tacit. Explicit knowledge is that which can be documented, filed away, and used in the future by anyone who can read and understand the information. It is often categorized and kept by the Information Technology Department of an organization. Tacit knowledge, on the other hand, is the know-how or personal experience of individual employees. This type of knowledge is located within the human capital of an organization rather than in its physical or electronic files. Tacit knowledge is what is lost if an individual, such as the founder or a key member of the team, leaves the company abruptly without passing along his or her experience to a successor.
How to keep and build that knowledge
The next step is making sure you and your company are able to maintain the knowledge that you have. To keep explicit knowledge, you’ll need a good accounting system, some thorough documentation methods, and an organizational culture of writing down your best practices.
Tacit knowledge is harder, and requires solid human resources management in order to retain valuable employees. When your company has a strong sense of purpose and has hired motivated people to carry out that purpose, your HR management strategy should cover team learning, innovation, trust, communication, and respect When implemented, these aspects of your strategy will foster tacit knowledge in your employees. Their knowledge is strengthened and grown through professional development and allowing them to be innovative in their positions. With this kind of working environment, it won’t be hard to keep people on board!
How will this affect my business?
Peter Senge writes “An organization’s commitment to and capacity for learning can be no greater than that of its members.” Knowledge management within your organization stems from the success of your human capital. Your people are your greatest asset, and you’re included in that group! When they are allowed to innovate and when their knowledge is captured in writing and in your organizational culture, your company will become more resilient. The bottom line is simple: let your experience be your guide so you can learn from past mistakes.