Pump up the hive mind – Rapid knowledge transfer at adorsys
by Johannes Meyer
Why knowledge transfer is essential
Effective knowledge transfer is essential for growing businesses. Ensuring that best practice is shared and disseminated across the workforce, helps to improve organizational performance and maintain a competitive edge. It is also crucial for businesses to keep up with the latest developments and trends in their industry, thus knowledge transfer helps facilitate this. In a nutshell, sustainable knowledge transfer will save you money, increase productivity and employee retention with the added bonus of improving company culture.
So what is the best way to institute an environment of knowledge transfer?
Formal versus informal knowledge transfer
From an organizational perspective, knowledge transfer is the practical problem of transferring knowledge from one part of the organization to another.
Formal knowledge transfer is information that is passed on through an established system or process where implicit knowledge is made explicit, accessible, and easy to understand for everyone. It is typically more structured and organized and does not only include a central repository, but also individuals within the organization to manage the knowledge.
Informal knowledge transfer is more spontaneous, occurs on the job and is often restricted to those colleagues who have a closer working relationship with each other or spend more time together. Employees may find it hard to exchange information across different teams which in turn causes silos.
Informal knowledge transfer happens in everyday conversations, both face-to-face and online. It happens through people sharing their experiences and insights, coaching and direct observations.
Many traditional office spaces can unintentionally work against knowledge sharing, e.g with cubicles closed off from others. But offices could equally also be set up too open-plan. Here are a few examples of the adorsys approach to creating a work environment that facilitates informal knowledge transfer:
Formal knowledge transfer – Learning from the experience of others
Without a doubt, it is also important for adorsys – or any company – to have structured ways of training and professional development for all employees on offer.
Besides the effective ways of mentoring programs, career learning paths and work shadowing, we also run monthly barcamps, where knowledge is shared in 1-hour educational sessions. But this is a topic for another blog.
However, preparing for a barcamp session usually takes up a lot of time, and not all topics are made for a full one-hour presentation. Especially if you just want to draw attention to a topic or wish to have a short discussion with colleagues about an idea, approach or technology.
That’s why we needed a lightweight method to spread bits of knowledge or brainstorm ideas!
Introducing: Uncle Bob’s Scenic Tour
What is it about?
It is a monthly event with some strict rules to help guide the session. It lasts exactly 30 minutes, reserved for three topics. Each speaker has eight minutes to present their topic. In the two minutes that follow, questions can be asked or the topic can be debated. If there is a need for further discussion, the interested parties can take the opportunity and arrange a separate follow up meeting. Or if everyone agrees that the topic needs to be looked at in more detail, then a barcamp session will be arranged. Strictly after ten minutes of an Uncle Bob’s Scenic Tour session, the next session kicks off immediately. The session host may make himself “unpopular” by enforcing strict adherence to the times.
We love this format because it’s a formal way of knowledge transfer in the sense that it is held regularly and well organized. But at the same time, it is still lightweight and easy to prepare for. After all, there is only a maximum of eight minutes to fill! And if you have a controversial idea, you don’t even have to use the full eight minutes if you just want to gage interest. However, the discussion part always is two minutes, no matter how long the presentation part was.
We’ve used this format for some interesting topics, such as
- presenting a piece of technology (‘Github copilot in action’),
- to spread knowledge (‘Lighting and homeoffice – how not to look like dead’ or ‘Terminal configuration with Oh my ZSH!’)
- to explain concepts (‘Roblox’).
- or just to recap the content of a recent conference summit some of us have attented.
What are the benefits?
Clearly “Uncle Bob’s Scenic Tour” encourages and fosters a knowledge sharing culture.
It is fast with the goal to touch up on topics:
- short event
- clear rules
- tight structure
It is effective:
- little effort for the preparation of the talk
- high information density / maximum exchange of knowledge
- information networking (I can talk to XY about topic Z)
It’s happening on a regular basis:
- approximately once a month
- creates consistency
Let’s give some credit to where we got the idea from
A former colleague of mine, Dr. Jürgen Lind, invented this format.
The name is a reference to one of the pioneers of agile software development and developer of many software design principles Robert C. Martin – who has been nicknamed Uncle Bob.
At adorsys we’ve made only a few adaptions to the original concept:
- Our sessions are all online
- All our sessions are recorded and stored in our internal wiki (provided all participants have agreed to)
- Most times we include a five minute stretching session with one of our agile coaches who happens to also be a certified yoga teacher
We’ve discovered that one of the most effective ways we can unlock the benefits of knowledge sharing is when we embed it within our culture.
People feel happier at work when they’re sharing knowledge and helping others. Feedback to the Uncle Bob’s Scenic Tour Concept is solely positive with a consistent high number of attendees. Sharing knowledge not only increases our productivity, but it also empowers our employees to do their jobs effectively and efficiently by getting easy access to insights, resources and expertise. Plus it’s always fun and a nice break from the normal work week!
You also want to become a part of adorsys? In our job advertisements might be just the right vacancy for you.