Knowledge Sharing & Assimilation

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May 2023

What does an org with an excellent culture of knowledge sharing look like?

As a thought experiment, consider an engineer trying to accomplish something complex and non-standard that they haven't done before. A critical organizational health metric is the number of "hops" this engineer must go through to acquire the know-how needed to finish their task. That, and the time between each hop.

In an organization with a solid knowledge sharing culture, the information is only one or two hops away. The engineer either directly knows someone with relevant experience or asks this question in an open forum where a domain expert quickly chimes in.

In other words, the organization "knows what it knows" and can assimilate new information quickly.

In my experience, three things need to happen to get to this state:

1/ Teaching (in some form) must be a core part of the job description, especially at senior levels. Staff+ folks should be evaluated on how effective they've made the rest of the organization through knowledge sharing, training, 1:1 mentorship, etc.

2/ The organization must grow a core group of leads whose expertise covers all the technology areas the org is involved in. The rest of the org, especially junior folks, must feel comfortable leveraging this group as a resource to get technical advice.

3/ Leadership must encourage using open forums (e.g., public slack channels) for technical discussion. This has two knock-on effects. Firstly it scales better since discussions don't bottleneck on one person. Secondly, it gives visibility and credit to the folks helping others, which further incents knowledge sharing.