Yearning to Be Free: The Importance of Information Sharing

Information is power. The secreting or hoarding of knowledge or information may be an act of tyranny camouflaged as humility.” – Robin Morgan, American political theorist.

Yearning to Be Free:  The Importance of Information Sharing  by Laura Stack #productivitySome activists like to say information yearns to be free, and we should allow anyone access to it. I don’t agree that this should always be so, but it’s definitely the best policy for you and your co-workers. Everyone on a team should have open access to all shared data at any time (click to tweet), insofar as it’s possible—especially since our current technology makes electronic access simple and easy.

Most of us have experienced the dreaded information silo, where valuable work data dams up within one team or under the control of one individual, either because of deliberate hoarding, incompatible technology, or laziness in saving the data to the correct location. Obtaining access to it can prove expensive and feel like pulling teeth, especially if someone’s holding onto it for personal gain or job security.

You can’t allow information silos to slow your team down. Even if you don’t lead the team yourself, you can still encourage free and open exchange of information by making your knowledge and data available to anyone who needs them. This practices goes by the rubric of “knowledge management.” Broadly defined, knowledge management comprises the way your team creates, shares, and maintains its collective knowledge base.

Efficient Data Sharing

I’m a big fan of documenting all basic tasks so others can pick up the documentation and run with it if key personnel are away or leave the company, but speed-based modern work teams rarely have the time or wherewithal to document their tasks. So encourage your teammates to grab a few minutes here or there to write “how to” instructions on their most common tasks. We have a “white notebook” of office procedures, a printed reference manual of our digital documented processes, which has been a life-saver on more than one occasion.

Ideally, you could share all this stuff via email, but we all know how overwhelming an email thread becomes when everyone’s attaching and saving documents individually. Besides, everyone has to collect and collate the shared data on their own, somewhere on their personal workstation. The result? A jumble of different filing methods, data misfiled and lost within the system, or information simply not plucked from email threads. The only effective solution is to share your information in a common location.

Luckily, online storage is cheap and easy to handle—once you decide how you’ll do it. Not long ago, the only way to do this was on a shared network or server, both of which are vulnerable to cyber-attack and physical damage. Nowadays, cloud computing has made physical data loss less of a worry, given the distributed nature of the data, though cyber-attack remains an issue.

Cloud sharing also makes team data accessible anywhere you have Wifi or a cell phone signal. Popular online sharing apps include OneNote, Evernote, OneDrive, SharePoint, Google Docs, Dropbox, and Box. Once you decide which to use, hammer out your info-sharing protocols with file naming conventions to make the data easy to locate and update. The less confusion within your team, and the easier it is to shared knowledge, the greater your collective productivity.

How has your team simplified knowledge management?

© 2015 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and in 2015 was inducted into its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401 or visit her website.