Breaking Down Silos - 7 Tips for Democratizing Knowledge in Your Remote Small Business

August 31, 2022

In a world dominated by Big Data, information has become the key to success. However, building an extensive trove of knowledge won't help your small business if your employees can't effectively share and utilize the details. That's why it's crucial to democratize knowledge within your startup.

Unfortunately, this already complex issue has become even more complicated lately. The accelerated shift to remote work and a hybrid operating model has made information sharing increasingly difficult. This situation has created more bottlenecks to the spread of knowledge within your organization.

Still, there are steps you can take. In this article, you'll learn how democratizing the knowledge in your organization can help boost your team's productivity, collaboration, and innovation. You'll also see what you can do to encourage and facilitate this process.

Democratizing the knowledge in your organization can help boost your team's productivity, collaboration, and innovation.

What is democratized knowledge?

Collaboration gets better when everybody can participate. Every part of your organization should be able to contribute to your goals.

However, the structure of most modern businesses stands in the way of this process. Even in a startup, where the number of people involved is relatively limited, remote work and atomized modes of operation have made the situation more difficult. Here are some of the issues that stand in your way:

  • Collaborators often don't share a physical space
  • Flexible work schedules
  • Coworkers in different time zones
  • More work done by part-time or freelance contributors
  • Increased use of third-party providers for various functions, like accounting, legal, and tech support

Democratized knowledge is a movement meant to counteract this. In a broad sense, the term refers to an attempt to spread information as widely as possible. Organizationally speaking, it means ensuring that each member of your team can draw on all the data and insight they need.

Why is it important to share knowledge in small businesses?

COVID has significantly changed the way information is disseminated throughout an organization. After the pandemic, a majority of workplaces now offer a remote option, at least some of the time. One study found that 56% of employers provide some work-from-home flexibility. Meanwhile, about one in six firms have become fully remote.

This recent shift towards remote work has made the processes around knowledge sharing even more critical.

Prior to the work-from-home revolution, you could call a surprise staff meeting to share new information. Or one employee could simply walk to another one's desk. Now, those options are gone. Even casual interactions require more intentionality.

As a result, achieving democratized knowledge requires more input, structure, and planning. Without this, you could create knowledge-wealth inequality within your organization. This results when actionable data becomes unnecessarily siloed, with one part of your operation having more access than others. This can undermine your business in a number of ways, causing inefficiencies and hard feelings.

You can avoid these situations by pushing for more democratized knowledge. Spreading information around your organization leads to measurable benefits. For instance, one study found that introducing social technologies into a company's process can raise the productivity of some workers by 20%-25%.

Along with productivity benefits, you can expect:

  • More Efficient Operations
  • Increased Ability to React Quickly to Changing Conditions
  • Heightened Innovation
  • Reduction in Harmful Office Politics
  • Improvement of Long-Term Institutional Knowledge

How to democratize knowledge in your small business

Spreading knowledge throughout your organization has significant upside. However, understanding the benefits of this process is just the first step. From there, you need a detailed plan to maximize the democratization of knowledge in your startup. Here are seven steps to consider:

Communicate your focus on democratizing knowledge

Start with a simple statement of purpose. By outlining your goals and explaining the benefits you expect to receive, you'll increase buy-in and establish your dedication to the principles of knowledge democratization. Here are some steps you can take to make this goal central to your operations:

  • Describe the structure you want to enact.
  • Lay out systems of democratization in detail.
  • Welcome feedback from your team.
  • Routinely review your systems.
  • Feature your knowledge democratization in new employee training.
  • Provide refreshers and reminders as needed.

Be an example

Showcase transparency from above. You can't direct your team members to share information if you operate behind a managerial veil. Instead, keep everyone in the loop as much as possible. This example will trickle down to everyone else.

Break down barriers

Reduce friction in your information-sharing systems. To do this, identify bottlenecks and eliminate them. At the same time, look for places to improve over time. If a team member runs into an issue, don't focus on laying blame. Instead, zero in on the ways you can update your processes to eliminate snags.

Use technology

Technology has made remote working possible. It can also smooth your way to knowledge democratization. Search for tools like communication and workplace management software. At the same time, accelerate your reliance on cloud computing. These products will give you the backbone you need for upgraded collaboration.

Create accessible knowledge hubs

Make information centrally available. This could require committing resources to collect data and developing methods to deliver the numbers to your team members. By making this investment, you can build out online reference areas accessible to all employees, opening the door for unexpected insights and easier application of knowledge.

Build a culture around sharing information

Structure internal interactions to promote information sharing. You can do this by including broad parts of your organization in planning sessions. Promote democratizing knowledge as one of your core values.

Reward collaborative successes

Most corporate recognition focuses on individual achievement. Bonuses, promotions, and praise often conform to a winner-take-all mentality.

Try to break out of this trap. Encourage and reward team success. This will undercut the incentive structure that drives individuals to hoard knowledge. At the same time, it spotlights your commitment to collaboration.

Encourage and reward team success. This will undercut the incentive structure that drives individuals to hoard knowledge. At the same time, it spotlights your commitment to collaboration.

Unlocking your potential with knowledge democratization

They say that a team is only as strong as its weakest link. By withholding knowledge from some members of your team, you create unnecessary sources of weakness. Democratizing knowledge in your small business can solve this problem, strengthening every part of your organization and opening the door to even faster growth.

With a plan to spread information around your startup, you unlock hidden potential. Use the information provided in this article to start that process. With this strategy, you'll potentially see improvements in worker satisfaction, engagement, productivity, and innovation.