Knowledge sharing is the corner-stone of many organisations’ knowledge-management (KM) strategy. Despite the growing significance of knowledge sharing’s practices for organisations’ competitiveness and market performance, several barriers make it difficult for KM to achieve the goals and deliver a positive return on investment.
This list of knowledge sharing barriers provides a helpful starting point and guideline for senior managers auditing their existing practices with a view to identifying any bottle-necks and improving on the overall effectiveness of knowledge-sharing activities.
The list will also give some indication of the complexity of knowledge sharing as a value-creating organisational activity.
The list is derived from an academic paper by Andreas Riege (“Three-dozen knowledge sharing barriers managers must consider”) and is divided into three categories: individual, organisational and technological.
Check out how many of these you’ve experienced. Are there more than can be added to the list?
- general lack of time to share knowledge, and time to identify colleagues in need of specific knowledge;
- apprehension of fear that sharing may reduce or jeopardise people’s job security;
- low awareness and realisation of the value and benefit of possessed knowledge to others;
- dominance in sharing explicit over tacit knowledge such as know-how and experience that requires hands-on learning, observation, dialogue and interactive problem solving;
- use of strong hierarchy, position-based status, and formal power (“pull rank”);
- insufficient capture, evaluation, feedback, communication, and tolerance of past mistakes that would enhance individual and organisational learning effects;
- differences in experience levels;
- lack of contact time and interaction between knowledge sources and recipients;
- poor verbal/written communication and interpersonal skills;
- age differences;
- gender differences;
- lack of social network;
- differences in education levels;
- taking ownership of intellectual property due to fear of not receiving just recognition and accreditation from managers and colleagues;
- lack of trust in people because they misuse knowledge or take unjust credit for it;
- lack of trust in the accuracy and credibility of knowledge due to the source; and
- differences in national culture or ethnic background; and values and beliefs associated with it (language is part of this).
- integration of KM strategy and sharing initiatives into the company’s goals and strategic approach is missing or unclear;
- lack of leadership and managerial direction in terms of clearly communicating the benefits and values of knowledge sharing practices;
- shortage of formal and informal spaces to share, reflect and generate (new) knowledge;
- lack of transparent rewards and recognition systems that would motivate people to share more of their knowledge;
- existing corporate culture does not provide sufficient support for sharing practices;
- deficiency of company resources that would provide adequate sharing opportunities;
- external competitiveness within business units or functional areas and between subsidiaries can be high (e.g. not invented here syndrome);
- communication and knowledge flows are restricted into certain directions (e.g. top-down);
- physical work environment and layout of work areas restrict effect sharing practices;
- internal competitiveness within business units, functional areas, and subsidiaries can be high;
- hierarchical organisation structure inhibits or slows down most sharing practices; and
- size of business units often is not small enough and unmanageable to enhance contact and facilitate ease of sharing.
- lack of integration of IT systems and processes impedes on the way people do things;
- lack of technical support (internal and external) and immediate maintenance of integrated IT systems obstructs work routines and communication flows;
- unrealistic expectations of employees as to what technology can do and cannot do;
- lack of compatibility between diverse IT systems and processes;
- mismatch between individuals’ need requirements and integrated IT systems and processes restrict sharing practices;
- reluctance to use IT systems due to lack of familiarity and experience with them;
- lack of training regarding employee familiarisation of new IT systems and processes;
- lack of communication and demonstration of all advantages of any new system over existing ones.