My previous post explored the process of giving, and in particular how our approach to it influenced our success. It was based on the book Give and Take by Adam Grant, in which he explores whether givers get ahead in life and in business (they do).
Suffice to say however, giving unreservedly is perhaps not something that comes naturally in many organisations, and nor is it something that many of our corporate cultures support. Few organisations for instance track, much less reward, sharing of knowledge, whilst promotions and bonuses are often given based upon individual performance.
When looking to change the culture of any organisation, there are typically half a dozen or so areas you can tinker with. These levers don’t influence behavior in the sense of a manager dictating that something needs to be done a certain way, because lets face it, that seldom works, right? Rather, it creates the kind of environment that encourages the kind of behaviours you want to see.
Ways to encourage a giving culture
- Focus on the task – the last 20/30 years have seen big changes in how tasks are designed. Various process improvement methodologies have evolved to ensure that tasks are performed in an optimum way. If your organisation makes use of such methodologies, make sure you include giving, knowledge sharing and collaboration in them. Ask yourself how the work flow would need to change to encourage more giving behaviour.
- Focus on the people – it is very easy to place undue emphasis on the people element of change, with the false assumption that if you could only change your team, everything would magically fall into place. Whilst getting the right people on board is important, there is a great deal of psychological research showing that our behaviour is influenced as much by the situations we find ourselves in as the kind of people we are. Think about the kind of skills required of your team in order to encourage knowledge sharing.
- Focus on the rewards – whilst rewards sound like a purely positive thing, they can also include punishments. What happens to people in your organisation when they behave the way you want, and of course what happens when they don’t? Remember that rewards don’t have to be monetary. Gamification has shown that it too has a role in reinforcing the right kind of behaviours. You will need to align your monetary and non-monetary rewards however to truly encourage a sharing culture.
- Focus on measurement – measurement is rightly important, and the saying goes that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. What you choose to measure also sends a strong message to employees about what you regard as important. This, coupled with the rewards you offer for good result, send frequent signals to employees about what matters. Use it wisely.
- Focus on information – think also about the kind of information people need in order to share wisely. In this instance employees will need to know both the problems their peers are having, and also the right people to ask if they themselves have a problem. You will also need to install strong and frequent feedback so that employees know how well they’re performing.
- Focus on organisation – most organisations have an org chart that outlines how the company is structured. If you’re trying to encourage people to share knowledge, then it’s very likely that this will mean knowledge flowing across organisational lines. How will this impact upon the make-up of teams within your organisation? Do you have the kind of flexibility that promotes this behaviour?
- Focus on decision making – if that knowledge is flowing, what impact will it have on who and when decisions are made? How will this impact upon the traditional leader/follower make up of teams?
These are just some of the levers that go into creating organisational cultures, and they will prove useful if you wish to create a culture that encourages sharing of knowledge.