Of Knowledge Sharing and Grapevines – an i-opener

Ever thought of the intranet as a management-backed grapevine where you “hang out” with colleagues, chat up and of course, exchange news and information? This was how software solutions-provider i-flex Solutions positioned its intranet, i-opener, while re-launching it in 2001. With a tagline like “It’s my arena”, i-opener may not sound like your typical cutting-edge Knowledge Management tool. But that is exactly what it is today for the company’s 2000-odd knowledge workers.

So how can a firm transform the intranet from a humble notice board to the very foundation of a learning organization? Here are some pointers from the i-flex story:

  1. Get ’em involved: In my opinion, employee buy-in is THE most decisive factor in the success of any knowledge-sharing endeavor. i-opener was designed based on employee suggestions, and it has a team of writers who regularly solicit contributions from all employees. Regular contributors are rewarded with brownie points such as books and gift vouchers!
  2. Focus on learning: The lifeline of i-opener is i-share, the knowledge management portal. Promoted by the senior management as the key to intellectual capital management, the portal is an active forum for employees to share best practices and learning experiences.
  3. Keep it transparent: The greatest challenge, I would say. i-flex goes to the extent of holding strategy development discussions and conducting employee surveys on the intranet.
  4. It’s all about balance: Get too obsessed with the knowledge angle, and you run the risk of creating a boringly passive repository. Forget the checks and balances, and the grapevine ends up being just that – fun, but rarely productive, and often destructive. The i-opener team brings in the fun element with games, chat forums and even road shows. At the same time, by involving employees across all levels they ensure accountability and responsible knowledge management.

At the end of the day, what decides the success of tools like the intranet in creating a seamless knowledge environment? If you ask me, the essence of knowledge sharing is trust and the climate of transparency and empowerment.

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2 Comments on “Of Knowledge Sharing and Grapevines – an i-opener”

  1. Lakshmy Says:

    Fluidity of knowledge – making the right knowledge available to all the right people at the appropriate time – has emerged as the foundation of all learning organizations. This has greatly transformed the role of tools like the internet and intranet. Can you imagine that a little more than a decade ago, the internet was chiefly used for searches and emails? The same is the case with the intranet.

    Today, several knowledge-sharing and management channels have shifted base almost completely to the intranet. An immediate example comes to my mind – Communities of Practice (CoP). Though social learning in organizations has been around for ages, the intranet along with software support platforms has enriched CoP with unprecedented levels of seamlessness and transparency. Truly empowering – but as you noted, it all depends on how prepared your organization is culturally to create a climate of trust and openness.

  2. Usha Says:

    It is certainly heartening to see that companies are finally looking out of the box to use existing resources and build something of value from it. Company intranets never seemed likely candidates for knowledge management tools before.

    I agree with Lakshmy – it is about trust and openness. I also think that the critical elements in this model is getting people involved and striking the right balance and maintaining it over time. Knowledge sharing initiatives often fizzle out because the right people don’t know where and when to access the information, preferring to reinvent the wheel each time. They also fizzle out, as Lakshmy rightly pointed out because it is either enforced or too academic.

    Going forward, a good idea would be to extract learning from the system and put it together in a knowledge repository which everyone can access. It is an added job, but doing it would ensure information is not lost in the system and is being utilized to improve efficiency and productivity. Tracking the kind of information employees are accessing or revisiting over a period of time can help the firm focus on attracting similar contributions from employees in future. Kudos to i-Flex for this innovative approach!


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