By Jeff Koyen
Oracles are no longer sufficient. The top-down approach, where knowledge is distributed from high-ranking authorities, fails to meet the needs of today’s employees. Teresa Dietrich, Stack Overflow’s chief product and technology officer, believes in the democratization of knowledge. She advocates for a human-centric approach to knowledge sharing and reuse.
At its core, Stack Overflow is a question-and-answer platform. Dietrich emphasizes that learning occurs through asking questions and receiving answers. While the benefits of democratized knowledge sharing are apparent to users, how does this benefit the entire organization? Let’s explore.
Peer-To-Peer Support At Scale
“We’re all knowledge workers,” says Dietrich. Employees are expected to be productive and creative with the tools provided. However, their value goes beyond individual output. It extends to how their work contributes to the advancement of the entire organization.
In a post-pandemic world, where hybrid work environments are becoming the norm, peer-to-peer support is more valuable than ever. Dietrich raises an important question: “How would you feel answering the same question for the 20th time this month?”
Knowledge sharing facilitates peer-to-peer support at scale. Answer a question once, and everyone in the organization can access that answer in the knowledge base. Colleagues can contribute their own expertise, creating a shared resource. The original expert, then, can focus on more meaningful work without being burdened by redundant inquiries. This measurably benefits the company as a whole.
Less Pressure On Valuable Employees
Success in the workplace often means handling increased responsibilities. This is especially true for knowledge-intensive areas such as IT and HR. Expert employees are frequently balancing their own tasks with the expectation of sharing their knowledge and assisting their colleagues.
Knowledge sharing platforms offer significant benefits to these employees. They can answer commonly asked questions upfront, saving time and alleviating the pressure of being the “resident expert.” Sharing knowledge becomes less stressful, particularly during a project’s initial stages.
Procedurally Preserved Knowledge
One of the most notable advantages of knowledge sharing platforms is evident during the onboarding and offboarding processes. Simplifying repetitive tasks related to welcoming new employees and capturing the knowledge of departing experts is crucial.
When subject matter experts move on, leaving behind extensive documentation, navigating these materials can feel overwhelming. Dietrich suggests breaking down these documents into easily digestible answers to specific questions. This approach supports a smoother transition for those taking over responsibilities and allows them to build on the knowledge left behind.
New Ways to Reward Top Talent
Assigning a specific value to expertise and adequately rewarding knowledgeable employees has always been challenging. However, new knowledge reuse metrics offer a solution. These metrics measure how frequently someone accesses a piece of content without asking further questions.
Managers can now identify those employees who actively share valuable articles with their colleagues. Recognizing and rewarding those who contribute the most knowledge creates a positive work environment and encourages further engagement.
Self-Service Pays Dividends
The next generation of employees seeks answers promptly. Knowledge sharing systems eliminate time wasted searching for the right person to answer questions and extracting precise information from them.
Dietrich emphasizes that the knowledge employees need should be easily accessible. A platform that provides relevant information eliminates anxiety and empowers individuals to find answers on their own time and terms.
Fostering Diversity and Democratization
Knowledge sharing and reuse foster a positive company culture. By putting information in the hands of all employees, platforms promote democratization. They break down hierarchies that often form when certain individuals possess key knowledge. This not only eliminates inefficient processes but also builds trust and cohesion within teams.
Dietrich highlights the importance of diversity of thought, experience, and education. Inviting new employees to share their expertise and ensuring their contributions are recognized immediately demonstrates the value of their knowledge.
Jeff Koyen is an award-winning journalist, media entrepreneur, and early cryptocurrency investor living in Curaçao with his family.