Creating New Knowledge in the Workplace

In any organization, there is a natural tendency for both the management and the employees to reach a point where they become stagnant.

This is a transition no one really sees happening as you start to learn what works and what doesn’t, and then begin to consistently do what is working.  This can become problematic, however, when we begin to think we know exactly how to reach our organization’s goals and start to rely solely on the information we’ve already learned.

Why is this a problem? Really, the problem with this is trifold. As stated before, this can create a complacency within the company. When new employees get hired on or someone is struggling to do their job well we send them to learn what other employees have already found works, instead of providing that employee with opportunities to engage in real life scenarios where they are able to gain “new” knowledge.

By completely depending on what already has worked, we forfeit learning new ideas and concepts that could help continue the success of the business.

In a world that is moving at an incredibly fast pace, we really don’t have the luxury (and hopefully not the desire) to get stuck in a knowledge “rut.” In an article from Harvard Business Review titled: Help Employees Create Knowledge-Not Just Share It, authors Hagel and Brown discuss why creating new knowledge is a key factor in running an efficient, relevant business.

They discuss how corporations focus too much on learning what to do in specific situations, followed by teaching employees how to respond in ways that have worked traditionally well in the past. However, what they say would be increasingly beneficial to both the employees and the company is to, instead, focus on establishing a work environment that encourages the entrance of newfound knowledge, as well as encourage workers to develop their own solutions to situations they enter. By doing this the business can keep up in an ever-changing world by curating an evolving workforce, encouraging growth, and real-life problem-solving.

One way that Hagel and Brown say helps to create new knowledge in the workplace is to begin to take the focus off teaching the individual and start to realize the importance of diverse workgroups. When employees are presented with the opportunity to work in a small group with others of different skill sets and become comfortable with that group, there is a much higher trust rate and better collaboration, which leads to attempting new things, creating new knowledge, and no longer simply depending on the explicit knowledge.

Another problem that can arise from only sharing explicit knowledge within a business is the rationale that once employees have learned a particular skill and become proficient in it, that they will automatically be successful. However, with change being an ever-present reality, we must realize skills can become useless and what worked before can easily not work anymore.

Brown and Hagel say it best with this statement: “While skills are still necessary for success, the focus should shift to cultivating the underlying capabilities that can accelerate learning so that new skills can be more rapidly acquired. These capabilities include curiosity, critical thinking, willingness to take risk, imagination, creativity, and social and emotional intelligence.”

Don’t let yourself become stagnant with the knowledge and skills you have obtained throughout the years, but instead, create for yourself an environment where learning is a required everyday occurrence.


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