for librarians, researchers and educators interested in information management
Recently it was our team’s turn to conduct a ‘team building exercise’ for our quarterly unit meeting with the 20 or so people who make up the ‘Research and Learning Services’ unit at our library.
We had some hard acts to follow – the previous activities had been fun and interesting, producing a lot of laughs, learning things about each other that we didn’t know, and seeing new sides to people we never knew existed.
We decided to focus our team building activity on knowledge sharing.
As librarians we are experts at helping others to access information and, in so doing, assist in their knowledge creation. However, we often overlook the knowledge we create ourselves, and that knowledge is one of our most valuable assets in the workplace.
We wanted our colleagues to think about the knowledge that they have, both as individuals and collectively as a group – the things they know about, or how to do. Often this knowledge is hard to articulate – for example, when someone asks you ‘how did you do that!’ and you answer ‘I don’t really know, I can’t explain … I just … you know … do it!’ Other knowledge is more explicit – the kind of stuff that is easy to write down in an explanation, a process or a procedure.
We hoped that the activity would help us as a group to gain an appreciation of the vast amounts of knowledge we hold collectively, and be able to celebrate that. I roughly calculated that as a group we had around 900 years worth of accumulated experience – that has to amount to a lot of knowledge!
For the activity, each person in the group had to identify one piece of knowledge they have in five different areas which included their current job, a previous job, a professional development interest area, a hobby or personal interest, and finally a ‘pearl of wisdom’.
No one needed to claim to be an expert in that knowledge, nor did it have to be unique, special or ‘big’ knowledge.
I won’t go into detail about the amazing list of knowledge and skills that we produced as a group in the few short minutes we had (and this was just the tip of a large iceberg).
What the exercise highlighted for me was that while formal methods of sharing knowledge are important, perhaps the most crucial means of knowledge sharing are the more informal ways.
People often equate knowledge with information, but they are very different concepts. Information is static, existing in and of itself, while knowledge is created from information being brought out of isolation and into a relationship. Thus, knowledge is about relationships, and the more we share information with each other, the more knowledge we create, and the more we build strength together.
Ultimately, from knowledge comes wisdom.
To conclude this post I would love to share with you the ‘pearls of wisdom’ that our group chose to share with each other.