Solving problems in a competitive market is critical to your company’s ability to innovate. However, to preserve momentum and nurture agility, it’s also vital to understand and preserve the record of how you are solving problems.
In certain industries, such as consulting, the ability to record and disseminate insights, perspectives, and knowledge is even more critical. The process used to solve various client problems has the potential to be reproduced and applied to future clients. Faster problem solving translates into forward momentum. For service businesses, this renders the ability to take on more clients and increase revenues. Preserving the record of successful solutions also helps consulting businesses help get new consultants up to speed and foster continuity during lengthy client engagements.
Unfortunately, without appropriate technologies and processes in place to facilitate it, this type of knowledge preservation and transfer is difficult to achieve.
The following are a few tips excerpted from a recent article in Harvard Business Review:*
- Look out for siloed teams. Prevent knowledge and information “islands” by keeping an eye out for teams that share few or no members with others, whether by design or by accident. Ensure cross-pollination by encouraging idea exchange and sharing insights across projects.
- Build a collaborative culture. “Your goal here is to establish knowledge transfer as a cultural norm,” wrote the authors. Promote this cultural shift by encouraging employees to recognize how sharing information helps everyone win. Leading by example and rewarding employees who follow suit can help. Consider sponsoring brown-bag lunches and celebrating breakthroughs facilitated by employees who shared best practices with others.
- Implement “multiteaming.” The authors of the HBR article define “multiteaming” as having individuals assigned to multiple teams at once. While this can be a practice that overwhelms already busy professionals, it also confers advantages, such as facilitating solutions to complex challenges that require multidisciplinary expertise. It also has the added benefit of distributing knowledge throughout the organization.
- Help promote trust through team building. According to the article, “when fully dedicated to one team, people learn about their teammates’ outside lives—family, hobbies, life events, and the like.” However, when dedicated to multiple teams, it’s common for members to keep a bit more to themselves, which can thwart growing bonds and create a less cooperative atmosphere. Team activities, including social engagements, can help collaborators understand each other, so they work together more effectively and harmoniously.
In addition to the tips above, you’ll need to create processes and mechanisms for knowledge preservation and transfer. Consider the following areas:
- Fix your “leaky” meetings. Meetings are the most common “container” for team collaboration. Unfortunately, because they’re built around verbal communication, it’s difficult to preserve the conversation, proposed solutions, and decisions made during these working sessions. Taking notes can help, although the mechanisms for distributing and keeping these notes are often less than useful (for example, distribution via email means that notes easily get buried and lost in overburdened inboxes). Using a digital workplace platform, such as Prysm's, can help you break free from the linear nature of the most commonly used tools, such as PowerPoint, email, and chat. Cloud-enabled workspaces allow your team to access, assemble, and visualize content in a less linear fashion — the way our brains naturally process information. This increases retention and recall, making it easier to iterate and innovate from session to session.
- Build a story database. People remember and relate to stories. Building a database of stories provides a mechanism for the transfer of knowledge and information regarding specific clients, projects, and successes. Create a repository for stories and share them with new and existing team members. This is especially effective for sales teams, where reproducing solutions can lead to more wins and greater revenues. You can also encourage sales reps to share stories during their client presentations and pitches. A digital workplace platform is a great place to build a story repository. You can create a workspace for stories that relate to specific projects or types of projects or engagements.
It is important to include multimedia and visual aids in your stories. Research shows that visuals promote greater retention of information. Of course, visuals also enhance engagement and enjoyment when it comes to presentations. Use them liberally!
- Create greater context by building project repositories, not asset repositories. Some companies inadvertently foster information silos by neglecting to provide employees with the means to store whole projects in a visual format. Visualizing projects in their entirety creates the context necessary for participants to make decisions as a team. Individual asset repositories, conversely, require each participant to create their own context, which often leads to conflicting opinions and project delays.
*Source: “The Overcommitted Organization: Why it’s hard to share people across multiple teams—and what to do about it,” Mark Mortensen and Heidi K. Gardner, Harvard Business Review, Sept.-Oct. 2017.