Defining the Knowledge-Centric Digital Workplace
In this time of digital transformation, a digital workplace that strategically centers knowledge is critical to elevating your organization's learning and innovation culture. While a robust digital workplace makes it easy for employees to connect and efficiently complete required tasks, a knowledge-centric digital workplace supports more effective problem-solving, creates leaders at all levels and promotes psychological safety by centering an organization's most valuable asset: the knowledge of its people.
When you center your organization’s knowledge within the digital workplace, it will support innovation and drive the business forward — and also transform your digital workplace into a competitive differentiator. After all, knowledge is only power if it is shared. Savvy digital workplace practitioners are well-positioned to cultivate a virtual environment that optimizes the development and exchange of ideas among knowledge workers.
Build Your Knowledge-Centric Digital Workplace on a Strong Foundation
When planning your strategy for a knowledge-centric digital workplace, first consider employees' hierarchy of needs. A digital workplace that leads with knowledge must first meet and exceed employees' basic digital workplace requirements. If a knowledge worker can't easily find the employee handbook, or struggles to access the timekeeping and budgeting tools they need to keep the business moving forward, they won't be able to reserve time for learning, exploring and sharing innovative thinking.
A Knowledge-Centric Digital Workplace Needs the Organization to Value Learning, Agility and Psychological Safety
To paraphrase Eric Hoffer, learning organizations will inherit the future, while learned organizations will find themselves well suited for a world that no longer exists. For the design of a truly knowledge-centric workplace to succeed, leaders at all levels of the organization should live this truth by exposing their teams to learning opportunities, encouraging feedback, welcoming conversation about ideas, and not penalizing those who fail through good faith efforts. Furthermore, all of the organization's knowledge workers, but especially those in positions of leadership, should understand and agree to the policies, processes and ongoing commitment of time and resources required to cultivate knowledge internally.
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A Knowledge-Centric Digital Workplace Aligns With and Champions the Organization's Strategic Knowledge Priorities
An organization's strategic knowledge priorities typically meet one or more of the following criteria:
- The organization is a knowledge leader in that topic, service or field of knowledge. Internal thought leaders and knowledge resources exist and should be easily identified and accessed.
- Clients, users and/or customers have identified the knowledge area as a priority through inquiries or the language within requests for proposals.
- The knowledge area is one that competitors understand well and the organization may not, representing a competitive disadvantage to address.
- It’s an emerging industry topic that the organization should stay abreast of. Building knowledge in this area internally could represent a competitive differentiator.
While the leadership may identify these knowledge areas through a structured strategic planning effort, they may also emerge through democratic ideation or spontaneous needs that can bubble up from any level of the organization. The latter method of identifying strategic knowledge priorities requires psychological safety and a willingness to deviate from a roadmap. Avoiding "brittle perfection" in favor of agility supports an organization's shift towards Hoffer's learning, rather than learned, category.
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A Knowledge-Centric Digital Workplace Is Actionable and Contextualized
Targeting audiences in different roles, interests and areas of knowledge will help ensure that your knowledge-centric digital workplace connects the right knowledge worker to the right content at the right time. This requires an understanding of the knowledge needs and journeys of users, which must be reflected in your employee data strategy.
Rather than merely theoretical, the resources you offer should be applicable to the work of your knowledge workers. What questions are they asking right now? What resources do they need to build competence in a subject and apply it within their own work? What degree of detail must be present for an individual to take direct action from their learning? And how can you build upon what is known externally by layering on proprietary insights and resources to contextualize the knowledge within your business?
Ensuring that knowledge is dynamic and current, that it accounts for the shifting industry landscape, is critical to building trust among users. Retention schedules and a content relevance process can help maintain the accuracy and currency of knowledge resources.
A Knowledge-Centric Digital Workplace Breaks Down Silos
When designing a knowledge-centric digital workplace, consider your knowledge ecosystem strategy. How can the resources and conversations of disparate teams, workgroups or offices be collated in ways that allow for connections, synthesis and the identification of patterns? How can this work allow for discovery, iteration and alignment? Carefully consider contribution and search strategy for any repository or channel that contains knowledge resources, and always prioritize a democratic approach to this strategy whenever possible.
The knowledge-centric digital workplace is, at its essence, knowledge-worker-centric. If a good digital workplace connects these employees to the information, platforms and tools to help them "do better," your knowledge-centric digital workplace helps them to "think better" by weaving the knowledge layer seamlessly throughout the digital workplace experience. When cultivated with an eye toward psychological safety, agility and organizational strategy, the knowledge-centric digital workplace can optimize an organization's learning culture while developing leadership at all levels.
About the Authors
Laura is a corporate librarian and knowledge services professional currently serving as Knowledge Manager at HKS, Inc., a leading global architecture firm headquartered in Dallas. In this role, Laura helps guide the firm’s knowledge strategy by championing knowledge building and sharing, information organization and findability, and employee experience within the digital workplace.
Emily is the Director of Global Knowledge Services at HKS, Inc., an international architecture firm. Driven by an interest in design research and the business of architecture, she leads teams toward solutions to improve design decision-making and business rigor.