Mariachiara Novati explains how to increase efficiency through knowledge sharing, enhancing and understanding intellectual capital

Being an Assistant is a very demanding job and every day we have to face and solve many different problems.

In many countries there are schools we can attend to prepare ourselves to enter this profession and later we can follow courses and seminars. Some universities and business schools give us the possibility to get a Masters too, but in my opinion, practice is the best way to learn.

The correct and most useful techniques are learned from colleagues who have in-depth experience in particular subjects and this is “Knowledge Sharing”.

Theoretically speaking, Knowledge Sharing is an activity through which knowledge (i.e., information, skills, or expertise) is exchanged among professionals, in this specific case Assistants and is a system to increase the competitive power and efficiency of organizations through sharing, enhancing and increasing the Intellectual Capital of its people and is an Intangible Asset.

In addition, Knowledge Sharing means interaction and exchange of information, experience and best practice to reach common objectives and obtain better results.

Since the 1980s, organizations have recognized that knowledge constitutes a valuable and intangible asset for creating and sustaining competitive advantages.

As people/employees are the Intellectual Capital, or Intangible Asset, this represents the maximum value and the best support to an organization’s development and innovation.

The Intangible Asset is made up of the following:

• Business relationships
• Human knowledge
• Work methodology
• Social relationships
• Specific Identity linked to the role

To enhance the Intangible Asset through Intellectual Capital means to:

• Create innovation
• Attract and develop talents
• Transform information in knowledge

For this reason Knowledge Sharing is the basis of Intangible Assets maximization and to reach this maximization a correct strategy and a straight methodology is necessary. In addition, all of these should be supported by adequate equipment.

The path to follow is to obtain the best results through:

• Encouraging staff to create value through making individual knowledge available to all the members of the organization
• Using this new knowledge effectively
• Connecting the new knowledge to operations and processes
• Linking the new knowledge to business strategy

The sharing of knowledge constitutes a big challenge for networks and organizations because some people tend to resist sharing their knowledge with the rest of the organization.I In fact one of the biggest obstacles is the common notion that knowledge is personal property, so who owns it? But shared knowledge offers different viewpoints and possible solutions to problems. To promote knowledge sharing and remove knowledge sharing obstacles, the organizations/networks should encourage discovery and innovation. At the end of this process the result will be the creation of a common organizational culture.

Until now organizations were our main reference, but the question is whether it is possible to apply Knowledge Sharing to networks of people (i.e. associations of professionals) who have the same role in different organizations or companies?

I think this is possible and I am going to show you how.

The point is how to manage “knowledge” in continuous and fast evolution and in particular how to transfer it to people working in different environments and business fields.

The answer is: through training and the correct use of technology.

The process of Knowledge Sharing

The first thing is recognising the people who have the knowledge to share and people who need to know.
This process can be developed using two different approaches. The first is giving information, knowing in advance the need of the final “client”. The second is offering specialized and targeted training in a simple enough format to immediately become your organization’s best practice.

The first option is not useful for our network of Assistants, because we do not know in detail what everyone is expected to do as we cover so many different roles in companies but the results of the second one are what I call “knowledge-sharing co- workers”. Through knowledge sharing, we are able to manage the know-how learned through training and apply it in all our office lives.

I want to underline an additional plus to this approach. In fact there are wider and other important effects on the organization too, because the “knowledge-sharing co-workers” will apply this new philosophy to all the various working backgrounds, thus becoming an example to other colleagues and giving a positive push to the corporate culture.

Put into action, the training project should be organized into three different modules: theoretical (passing on the basic information), practical (case history and exercises), and lastly, technological (instructing how to use the available tools).

The development of this project could be divided into four phases:

1. Diagnostic analysis: to analyze the state of the current situation & to investigate the needs of the project.
2. Pilot phase: to create a project team working on the criticalities and trying to solve them.
3. Implementation phase: considering the results of the Pilot phase, the team identifies the most important areas to be improved.
4. Final release: divided into “definitive launch” and “follow-up”

Looking at this path of development it is mandatory and essential to create among the participants a “Knowledge Sharing Culture” as part of this initiative. An isolated knowledge program, like the one I am proposing, looked after by a privileged few is worthless and will not survive for long. Only effective collaboration and communication among professionals which disseminates across the whole network structure will give your organization the necessary boost.

In fact the change must start with the individual. Every Assistant has a sphere of influence along with their own individual knowledge and this is where she must believe that a knowledge sharing culture can begin.
To create a knowledge sharing culture it is necessary to encourage Assistants to work together more effectively, to collaborate and to share – ultimately to make their knowledge more productive.

Even though Assistants work in different companies it is possible to organize seminars, round table discussions and focus groups, because if the old paradigm was “knowledge is power”, today the situation is evolving and “sharing knowledge is power” is in their personal interest

If we all understand that sharing our knowledge helps to do our jobs more effectively, then it can bring with it many positive benefits. When we understand that it will help to retain our jobs, help in our personal development and career progression, reward us for getting things done and brings with it more personal recognition: then knowledge sharing will become a reality.

Mariachiara Novati lives in Milan, has a degree in Foreign Languages, a Master in HR Management and a second one in Marketing & Communication Management. She works as a Manager Assistant since 1992 covering different roles such as Scientific Secretary ... (Read More)

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