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How to improve knowledge-sharing without hurting company culture

To build a positive, affirming company culture, it’s important to keep a flat hierarchy. Even though your teams likely have managers, they’re open to feedback—if a junior developer makes a suggestion, it won’t be dismissed just because they don’t have as much seniority as other team members. All team members are expected to contribute and solve problems, rather than simply taking direction from their supervisors. This type of approach can lead to creative and more agile solutions, when done well.

That said, this approach can grow more difficult the larger your organization becomes. The Agile Research Network found that informal discussions were the most common ways of sharing knowledge within project teams and with colleagues—meaning there’s a good chance of getting left out of the loop as your company expands. In the study, 61% of respondents said that it was easy to share knowledge within their teams, but just 25% of respondents said that it was easy to share knowledge with customers or company colleagues.

In order to maintain the open and transparent feeling of your organization while expanding access to knowledge to everyone who needs it, it’s important to make use of knowledge-sharing technology and best practices. For example:

Ask team members to document their solutions and hacks in writing

While a quick Slack chat with your senior engineer might help one developer solve a problem in the moment, other engineers are likely to stall out if they don’t have access to the same knowledge. Ask your team members to share any problem/solution exchange as a Q&A in your knowledge-sharing tool.

Invite all team members to participate in knowledge-sharing

Technical knowledge shouldn’t be limited to your technical team—for example, your sales and marketing teams will need it so that they’re able to address questions about feature release timeframes and upcoming integrations. Your customer support team will need information to help them troubleshoot customer issues. When information is siloed, other team members can spend days or weeks getting access to the information they need for their own projects. By inviting all of them to participate in asking questions, providing answers, and searching for information, they’ll be able to gain access to your entire bank of institutional knowledge.

Keep the existing systems that are working

— but encourage all employees to back up all information that would be relevant to others in your knowledge-sharing platform

While face-to-face meetings and Slack chats are ideal for maintaining a casual environment and keeping projects moving forward, make sure that employees are being generous with their knowledge. Beyond limiting information to a select group of teammates, encourage all employees to copy-and-paste their exchanges into the knowledge base, providing incentives for those who participate most.

By creating efficient and successful mechanisms for knowledge-sharing beyond the team with management, peers and different specialists, you can keep the creative and flexible environment that your team loves, while enabling the entire organization to work together more efficiently.

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