Knowledge Sharing

How do people share information in companies and what are communities of practice?

Essay, 2011

18 Pages

Leni Schmitz (Author)



1.0 Introduction

2.0 Characteristics of Knowledge Sharing
2.1 . Different notions of knowledge
2.2 . Knowledge sharing in companies
2.3 . Collaboration management - brokering model

3.0 Strategies for managing knowledge
3.1. Codification strategy vs. Personalization strategy
3.2. Companies and their strategies

4.0 Community of practice
4.1. Community of practice - Definition & Use
4.2. Difference between community of practice and a project team

5.0 Conclusion

6.0 List of references

1.0 Introduction

In times of an information overload it is important to find a way to manage all this knowledge. So as a professional working company you need to find a way that works for you best to share and store knowledge. In the fallowing essay I will present you knowledge strategies that companies use to share knowledge among their employees like McKinsey or Ernst & Young.

But there a some barriers to break down to get people to share their knowledge. In my essay I will also present you some companies and their kind of way to handle knowledge sharing. In times of globalisation it is very important to have the right strategy to work efficiently. Further more I introduce you to a special kind of working team called community of practice. This group works with the goal to share knowledge among people with the same interests working on the same problem, topic or subject. Above that I will show you the difference to a team to make clear how special a community of practice is. At the end I round up my essay by a conclusion while resuming the topic of it.

2.0. Characteristics of Knowledge Sharing

2.1. Different notions of knowledge

There are different notions of knowledge that exist in a company. One of it is 'tacit knowledge' and the other one is 'explicit knowledge'.

Tacit knowledge is knowledge of a person which is hard or even impossible to explain to another person one or writing it down.

For example the ability to hold the balance while riding a bicycle or acquiring 'tricks of the trade' in a workplace situation.1

One can say it is an individual knowledge about specific, individual situations and it is difficult to formalize it in words and transmit it to others. On the other side we have explicit knowledge that can be transmit to others verbal. That mean one can describe that knowledge using words with formal logical language. Now we know that there are two different types of knowledge existing in a company. But for an organization to share useful knowledge it needs to change knowledge universal from tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge. On that knowledge creation process it is important doing that through dialogue, discussion, but also through dissension with various opinions. It's important to undergo that process of conversation to turn individual knowledge into group knowledge. It is even necessary for an active part of knowledge to concentrate various opinions, sense of values, large experience (can be even based on personal ones → tacit knowledge).2. Later on I will present you a possibility to substantiate that while working in a group.

2.2 Knowledge Sharing in companies

But first it needs to answer the question what knowledge sharing actually means. One definition says that it is an activity in which participants are involved in the joint process to contribute, negotiate or utilize knowledge.3

Meanwhile most of the organizations have been recognized that knowledge constitutes a valuable intangible asset for creating and sustaining competitive advantages.4 Many of that organizations supports the sharing knowledge activities by knowledge management systems. In the year of 2003 U.S. companies spent $4.5 billion on software and other technologies with the goal of promoting knowledge. The question is if there is a pay-off investing that large sum of money. The most common tool of sharing information in an organized corporate is publishing. In that publishing-model someone collects information from employees, then organizes it, advertises its availability and then lean back to see what happens. But in the meantime employees have created a pile of information again. Eventually it frustrates because it is not possible to gather all information. In fact it is not possible to gather amounts of information; even for the best organized concern. Some of that efforts collect just a fractional part of what people really know. And if that kind of knowledge has been published it is often out of date. That process is unratable because you never know how much time it will cost you. But time is money, the motto of every business organisation.

At this point the companies orientate themselves towards they have done in the past and also publish their research results on the basis of this. So what kind of knowledge they needed or have been used. But exactly that alignment is unfavourable. The disadvantage of this publishing model is that it proceed on the assumption that employees have got the willingness to share their knowledge without a reward. In practice employees make knowledge sharing condition on receivers of information. So people distinguish who with whom they share information.

This is the main problem of corporate culture and the reason of bad cooperation. That desire of hoarding and controlling information should companies should take advantage of. One possibility is to leave knowledge where it is instead of extract knowledge they should open up possibilities for sharing by making knowledge accessible. That needs to change the previous method of publishing knowledge and focus on collaboration management which is based on a brokering model.

2.3. Collaboration management - brokering model

A brokering model use the attitude of employees to share knowledge by making this people visible and thus valuable to the company. They need to get approval sharing their knowledge. The hidden-agenda of that model is to bring people together working on the same field of activity like the vendor. The goal is that those people get to know each other to improve or facilitate their every day business through information exchange.

But there is a challenge to bring those people together. There is a IT-based solution which tells you what information is flowing through a company with a result to show you who knows what. In case of an information need the system shows you relevant contact persons. But the system also matches similar interests by examining e-mail, network folders et cetera and give notice if there is a common interest or the like. This process gives you the opportunity to contact that person that, e.g., has got the same vendor as basis.

Nevertheless it is very important so say that this model works best when people do not feel obliged to share their information. They should decide independently to share their knowledge with others. Technology should play a supporting role in this case by identifying relevant connections instead of flooding people with information or take it from them. Experience shows, however, that the more privacy companies give their employees in that point, the more they want to share their knowledge.5

3.0 Strategies for managing knowledge

3.1. Personalization vs. Codification

In the age of computer you have the choice how to handle all this knowledge in a company. Some companies decided upon knowledge management while others still rely on their employees to share knowledge. But many companies involve increasingly computer. In that case knowledge is carefully codified and stored in databases where it can be accessed and used by the employees. Those companies have special ways to codify, store and reuse knowledge. That people-to-documents approach works as follows:

1. Knowledge is extracted from the person who developed it
2. then make independent of that person
3. and finally is used for different purposes.

Achieved by collecting knowledge through interview guides, work schedules, benchmark data, and market segmentation analysis out of documents. Subsequently these data will store in an electronic repository for employees to use. The advantage of that method is that many people are able to search for and retrieve codified knowledge without contacting anybody in the company. There is a possibility to use that knowledge several times without disturbing or keeping somebody from work while asking for help.6

Hansen et al. call this strategy in his article “What's your strategy for managing knowledge?” from 1999 the codification strategy.

The contrasting from that is the personalization strategy.

A personalization strategy puts the focus on the person who has developed knowledge and shares it through person-to-person contacts at face-to-face- meetings, over telephone, via video-conferences and by e-mail. Nevertheless, a personal intra-firm networks are important. The role of computers is here not to store knowledge, but help to contact the right person to communicate knowledge.7

3.2. Companies and their knowledge strategy

So we got to know the two different strategies to manage knowledge. But the question now is: Which strategy is the better one?


1 Busch, P. P. 55, 2008

2 Setchi, R, P. 476, 2010

3 Hwamdeh, S. et. al., P. 127, 2008

4 Miller D., Shamsie J., 1996

5 Gilmour, D. 'How to fix knowledge management', 2003.

6 Gottschalk, P., P. 34, 2005

7 Svensson, R., P. 23, 2000.

Excerpt out of 18 pages


Knowledge Sharing
How do people share information in companies and what are communities of practice?
Cologne University of Applied Sciences  (Informationswirtschaft)
Information & Communication
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
533 KB
Knowledge Sharing Communities of Practice, Information & Communication, FH Köln
Quote paper
Leni Schmitz (Author), 2011, Knowledge Sharing, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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