From the Community Roundtable: On our recent 'State of Community Management' webinar we got so many great questions that we've archived them all here. One question we liked in particular dealt with a problem many community managers face when trying to gain traction with their audience.
Q: How to overcome barriers for knowledge sharing?
A: Any cultural change takes time but I like to think of it as an infection model. Pinpoint and find key influencers who are already supportive of more open sharing of information and acclimate them to new tools and techniques. Like leaders, it may take some time but it is well worth it as they will 'infect' the rest of the organization. Also people must have the time, receive recognition, and have familiarity with new tools and processes in order to participate effectively. Think about the 'What is in it for me' factor - if that is not there, the initiative will be hard to move forward.
More from Rachel:
Reducing barriers to knowledge sharing is a classic cultural change issue and, like many things in community management, not one with a "right" answer. Changing behavior requires motivation to change and the best motivation is to make the change meaningful to the individual in question. The difficult part is what is meaningful to one person may not be to another and means a variety of programs, training, mentoring, and incentives have to be applied to create lasting change. This theme comes up repeatedly and you can find some ideas and practices employed by practitioners in The State of Community Management.
Internally, it has a lot to do with having the right people in your corner. While it's important to have an enthusiastic senior executive involved in getting your company to embrace knowledge sharing, I've found it's the middle managers that are the key to widespread adoption. Often times it's their teams and relationships at stake, so if you're able to show them the value, you're on your way.
Another key to building a knowledge sharing culture (internal and external) is creating opportunities for experimentation. I've found brown bag lunches are extremely effective at getting people together to try new tools and techniques. During a customer conference several years ago, I put a Flip camera on each lunch table along with a table tent with three questions. The people at the table took turns recording interviews of one another and had a lot of fun in the process. Later in the day we showed them a compilation of the interviews and you could see them have that "aha" moment. Not soon after we launched a customer community with great success.
Finally, publicize and reward. Often times it's hard to be the first person trying something different. Publicly acknowledge people who take that risk and reward them for their courage. It can be something as simple as lunch with the Sr. VP, just something that makes them feel good about sharing what they know.
Cross-posted with permission of the Community Roundtable: A peer network for community managers and social media practitioners.