Building and Sustaining a Knowledge-Sharing Culture

Information and knowledge can be found in research papers, reports and manuals, databases, and more importantly, in people. There are two types of knowledge: explicit and tacit. On the one hand, explicit is knowledge that can be captured and written down in documents or databases. For example, this knowledge can be found in instruction manuals, written procedures, best practices, lessons learned, and research findings. On the other hand, tacit is knowledge that people carry in their heads. This is considered more valuable because it provides contexts for people, places, ideas and experiences; and it requires extensive personal contact and trust to share effectively.

I think Namibia holds a bad record when it comes to a knowledge-sharing culture. We don’t want to share our personal experiences and expertise (tacit), not even our research papers (explicit). Namibians hoard explicit knowledge for reasons only known to them. If you get to any public library, all you can find is old research documents as if people have stopped writing research papers (be it undergraduate, graduate, or any kind).

Trust is important and builds confidence; but culture is built over time. And culture is very important because it is a medium through which knowledge is shared and exchanged. So far it seems as if our culture is to block our knowledge resources to the future generations, instead of making them available at no cost. But knowledge-sharing is the process through which individuals share their ideas, skills and experiences (be it in the form of tacit and explicit knowledge) with others.

Building a knowledge-sharing culture enables people “to assume responsibility for making things happen” (Buckman: 2004, p. xviii). These people makes things happen in their own lives and indeed in other. Therefore the flow of knowledge should reach all sections of our society, and especially available in libraries so that everyone have access to these knowledge resources. But you may ask, ‘how do we build a knowledge-sharing culture and ensure the flow of knowledge?’ The first thing an individual needs to know is that knowledge shared, is knowledge multiplied. As a matter of fact, “Unlike material assets, which decrease as they are used, knowledge assets increase with use: Ideas bread new ideas, and shared knowledge stays with the giver while it enriches the receiver” (Davenport & Prusak: 2000, p.17).

If you can now grasp the essence of knowledge-sharing, you will realise that it benefits you as much as the receiver. People learn from you because you are writing in the context of your cultural values and beliefs, which determine what you see, absorb and conclude from your observations. This makes people from other cultures to review your document from their cultural perspectives. This can lead people to have encouragement, collaboration and cooperation because culture has core values. So then, if we continue to have a no knowledge-sharing culture, other individuals will frequently re-invent the wheel; continue to fail solving current problems and situations because the knowledge they is not accessible and available to them.

Like organisations, making costly errors by disregarding the importance of knowledge, we should try to gain a better understanding of what we already know, what we need to know, and what to do about it. Successful people are those who are open to new ideas. We, ourselves should build a culture of knowledge sharing because “A culture of sharing requires work processes built around foundation values grounded in the four basic virtues: Justice: acting honestly and fairly, keeping promises; Temperance: acting with self-discipline, avoiding overt self-service; Prudence: displaying practical wisdom and the ability to choose well in any situation; and Fortitude: showing strength of mind and character and courage to persevere in the face of adversity” (Buckman: 2004, p. 53).

Effective knowledge-sharing does not drown people in information; instead, it speeds up the problem solving process. Because innovation is based on new ideas, knowledge-sharing is a means through which innovations are diffused and acted upon. By understanding and accepting the new order of determining directions, individuals will move faster into the future, finding their own secure place in the new culture. Because knowledge is perishable if it is not shared and used by others, it can lose value and you may not effectively achieve your goals and you certainly won’t be recognised. So the benefit of sharing knowledge is acquiring new knowledge in return.

1. Buckman, R. (2004). Building a knowledge driven organization. New York: McGraw-Hill Press.
2. Davenport, T.H. and Prusak, L. (2000). Working knowledge: how organizations manage what they know. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School.


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