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Knowledge Sharing and Productivity

by Lee Siu Ming



Knowledge sharing is defined as the process of exchanging knowledge (skills, experience, and
understanding) among researchers, policymakers, and service providers (Tsui et. al, 2006).
Productivity can be defined as producing the most optimal output with minimal input of
resources, ceteris paribus. The more the products of the same quality that can be produced with
the same amount of resources, the higher the level of productivity.

In the world today, where knowledge plays a paramount role, knowledge sharing plays an
important role towards the improvement of productivity. Randstad World of Work Report
2012/13 revealed that by the year 2017, 66 percent of the workforce will be engaged in skilled
knowledge work. The occupations include project managers, business analysts, engineers, IT
specialists, and R&D and innovation experts. Hence, it is important to increase knowledge
sharing with the increasing number knowledge workers in the country.

However, it is vital to note that knowledge sharing benefits is not only limited to knowledge-
based industries and knowledge workers. Knowledge shared will be utilised in the work of
knowledge workers. Eventually, this would lead to the application in the use of manual workers
as well. Hence, in aggregate, the total level of productivity will increase. For example, a research
on rubber production may be produced by the Tun Abdul Razak Research Centre based in the
United Kingdom. As a research and promotion centre of the Malaysian Rubber board, the
findings will be shared to the colleagues in Malaysia. Eventually, the application will be applied
to the industry which will benefit the production workers (who are usually not knowledge
workers.

The situation above will lead to an increase in the productivity of the rubber industry in
Malaysia. The new research output may lead to productivity either through improvement of
technology or improvement of the use of resources. This is in line with the economic theory of
growth illustrated through a production possibility frontier. Using a production possibility
frontier, an economy can achieve economic growth through advances in technology or increase
in resources which are similar to the result of a successful research output as described above.

The benefits of knowledge sharing and its benefits have been briefly described above. However,
for knowledge sharing to occur, the environment for it to happen must be present.

The tacit knowledge possessed by individuals is crucial and instrumental to an organizations
operation and survival. However, reaching the point where employees willingly share what they
know is one of the toughest nuts organizations have to crack (Bukowitz and Williams, 1999).
Indeed, what Bukowitz and Williams has described is of great relevance to the issue of
knowledge sharing. Tacit knowledge is personal, context-specific, difficult to formalize, and
difficult to capture, communicate and share. Tacit knowledge is a type of knowledge that is
explicitly difficult to transfer but may be very useful. It is this type of knowledge that is usually
needed for to achieve higher productivity. Written knowledge is also needed to achieve
productivity but it is easier to acquire such knowledge since it has been codified.

To allow knowledge sharing to occur more effectively, there are two conditions which the author
feels play a great role. However, the author wishes to assert that these are not the only conditions
for knowledge sharing to occur. The conditions are the channel which knowledge sharing can
take place and the willingness to share the knowledge.

Organisations should always provide channels for knowledge sharing to take place. For example,
focus groups and learning teams where members can always share on how to improve their
productivity. Members may want to share, but without proper avenues, knowledge sharing would
not occur. Members should also not be forced to share on anything that they are not willing to.
Voluntary sharing would be the best way to allow for knowledge sharing. A flexible
environment will allow for members to feel free to express their opinion and suggestion.
Technology has also allowed for easier knowledge sharing. Knowledge management system
becomes an important system to many organizations today.

The definition of supply in economics is: Supply refers to the ability and willingness of firms to
produce and sell goods and services in the market, ceteris paribus. Two words from the
definition would be useful in describing knowledge sharing among workers. They must have that
information in knowledge (ability) and they must be willing to share those knowledge
(willingness). Some workers may feel that certain knowledge provides the niche advantage to
them and they may not be willing to disclose these knowledge or skills. These would then lead us
to the word sell in the definitions of supply. Organisations must be willing to pay for such
knowledge sharing if it would benefit other employees and the organization. This is no different
from paying for training and workshops. It is because organizations are convinced that the
training provides benefit that it is willing to pay for that training, then why would the
organization be unwilling to pay for a niche skills knowledge sharing by an employee?

The two above conditions can be supported by the findings of the study Knowledge-sharing
patterns of undergraduate students in Singapore by Ting and Majid. They found that generally,
students displayed a positive attitude towards knowledge sharing. However, the respondents
were less inclined to share knowledge for academic activities that were graded. The study also
revealed that competition among students to outperform their fellow students and lack of depth
in peer relationship were the two main factors that inhibited knowledge sharing. The author
believes that the result of the study is applicable to the work environment where competition is
more apparent and colleagues may be lack of peer relationship.

Hence, to improve productivity, organizations must improve on the two conditions mentioned
above. However, the author wishes to caution that the type of knowledge sharing that should
occur should finally be able assist the organization to achieve its goals. Haas and Hansen found
that sharing codified knowledge in the form of electronic documents saved time during the task
but did not improve work quality or signal competence to clients. In contrast, sharing personal
advice improved work quality and signaled competence but did not save time.

In conclusion, based on the setting of a knowledge economy today, we are bound to move
towards knowledge sharing to increase productivity in organisations. Perhaps, the following
words from Peter Drucker best conclude this essay: The most important contribution
management needs to make in the 21
st
century is similarly to increase the productivity of
knowledge work and knowledge workers.












































References

Serban A. M. , Jing L.. (2002). Overview of Knowledge Management. New Directions for
Institutional Research . 13 (-), -.

mysinwhew. (2012). Skilled knowledge workers to dominate Malaysia's future workplaces, says
report. Available: http://www.mysinchew.com/node/78799. Last accessed 21st Aug 2013.

Tsui L.. (2006). Introduction. In: Tsui L. A Handbook on Knowledge Sharing: Strategies and
Recommendations for Researchers,Policymakers, and Service Providers. Canada: Community-
University Partnership for the Study of Children, Youth, and Families. 1-6.

Ting J. Y., Majid M. S.. (2007). Knowledge-sharing patterns of undergraduate students in
Singapore. Library Review. 56 (6), 485-494.
Drucker P. F.. (1999). Knowledge-Worker Productivity: The Biggest Challenge. California
Management Review. 41 (2), 79-94.

Tun Abdul Razak Research Centre. (2013). Tun Abdul Razak Research Centre,. Available:
http://www.tarrc.co.uk/. Last accessed 21st Aug 2013.