Experts Blog

Is Your Company Using Internal Knowledge?

  • Sandro Dönni

The world of economy is changing at an unprecedented speed, and putting pressure on companies to more quickly adapt to new conditions and requirements. Who does not keep up, loses the connection, and even world market leaders such as Nokia in mobile telephony or Kodak in photography quickly pale in their core business into insignificance.

Make Intellectual Work Productively

The changing nature of the company's needs also changes the way in which people work. The move from agricultural to industrial to a service society has led to the fact that intellectual work and the resulting innovation have become the key economic drivers. Toda, 50 per cent of all Swiss workers work as white collar workers and the proportion will continue to rise in the future (HSG, 2013). However, the potentials of intellectual work are only utilised to a small extent (Frauenhofer ILO, 2012). Thus, the words by Peter F. Drucker «Making intellectual work productively is the great management task of this century, just as the great task of the past century was to make manual work productive» are becoming more topical than ever.

The Limits of Traditional Process Design

Under increasing economic pressure, companies cannot afford to exploit the potential of the knowledge and experience of their employees inadequately. An improvement in this central area can lead to a sustained increase in company success. Against this background, the companies are increasingly concerned with the question of how, where and when, with whom and with which technologies to work in the future.

In the case of classical process design, the fact that intellectual work is "difficult to standardise in given procedures" (Frauenhofer IAO) is insufficiently taken into account. Intellectual work is strongly influenced by collaboration and cooperation and must constantly adapt to new requirements in the modern business environment. Meeting these dynamic requirements with rigid processes does not lead to success. In order to meet rapidly changing market requirements and customer needs, companies must have the ability to learn quickly and be flexible and agile. This is achieved only by a good and fast integration of the knowledge of the employees.

Cultural change as a success factor

Social Collaboration provides tools that promote knowledge exchange, communication, networking and collaboration. Specialists can form communities so that central knowledge providers can be easily identified and contacted. Social Collaboration thus offers the possibility to develop knowledge directly where it is needed: in the case of work tasks.

The reduction of communication and collaboration barriers simplifies the work and increases the efficiency of the employees on a sustained basis. McKinsey (2012) identifies the accumulation of these various effects with a potential increase in productivity of 20 to 25 percent.

An open corporate culture, which empowers and motivates employees, is the basis of this development. According to Gartner (2012), the successful introduction of Social Collaboration is in 80% based on cultural change and only in 20% on technology. Existing hierarchies and traditional leadership patterns are questioned. While it used to be a great honour for employees to possess and retain a lot of knowledge, today, due to the greatly shortened half-life of the knowledge content, it is essential to share it in order to meet the dynamic requirements together. This change must be accompanied and targeted. Collaboration initiatives are therefore definitely not pure IT projects, but also to a large extent change projects!

Companies that are able to carry out this cultural change, to collect the knowledge of the employees and let it "flow" into the work tasks will be one decisive step ahead of their competitors and will become the winners of tomorrow.


  • McKinsey, 2012, The social economy: unlocking value and productivity through social technologies
  • Gartner, 2012, The Nexus of Forces: Social, Mobile, Cloud and Information
  • Frauenhofer IAO, 2009, OFFICE 21® Study
  • Universität St. Gallen (HSG), 2013, Die Zukunft der Wissensarbeit

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