How big is your "knowledge footprint"?

How far does your knowledge spread in your organisation?

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We are used to the idea of the Carbon Footprint – the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of your activities – but what about your Knowledge Footprint? This is the amount of knowledge released into the organisation (or the world, if you prefer) as a result of your activities?

What is the size of your knowledge footprint?

We could measure that by seeing how far your knowledge spreads; whether you contribute in Community of Practice discussions, for example; whether you contribute to lessons learned, or whether you add your contribution to Wikis and knowledge assets. All of these are examples of broadening your knowledge footprint, and contributing your knowledge to the wider organisation.

In contrast, a small knowledge footprint would be if you shared your knowledge only with the team you work with, or only in individual reports in a library which nobody might read. As an example, a study of “Which World Bank Reports Are Widely Read” found that over 31% of the reports they publish are never downloaded. The knowledge in these reports effectively has a zero footprint.  Just publishing knowledge does not mean a large footprint, the knowledge has to be read and reused.

Some companies incentivise having a large knowledge footprint.

  • In Deloitte, the performance appraisals will address what employee has done to contribute value to the firm beyond standard billable hours, including the creation of knowledge  
  • A similar approach is applied in McKinsey where one of the ways in which an employee can advance is by gaining recognition outside their own office through knowledge sharing. The knowledge behaviours people exhibit directly affects their promotion. 
  • The Fluor KM “Pacesetter” Program uses peer recognition to reward employees who are actively engaged in knowledge sharing behaviours. 
  • Boeing offer “Knowledge sharing awards” for people whose knowledge has been reused elsewhere for business advantage.
In Knowledge management, unlike in carbon dioxide release, a large footprint is generally a good thing.

How big is your knowledge footprint?

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Shared by: Nick Milton

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