What good is knowledge if not shared?
In a world of information and collaboration, sharing knowledge is critical to performance. When employees withhold information, the entire team loses the opportunity to learn from each other, decreases trust, and hinders innovation. In fact, the perception of “knowledge hoarding” has a 97% negative correlation to trust, according to one study of U.S. park rangers. This study goes on to show that perceived withholding of knowledge had a 91% decrease in effective interactions and nearly doubled team conflict.
We also know from Bandura’s Social Learning Theory that people learn through each other as well as themselves. Tapping into past experiences and building on known concepts expands understanding more effectively. This is why the “shoulder-to-shoulder” model of learning can be so effective; the learner is directly connected to observation, instruction, experience, application, and feedback.
As we think about the role of training, be it virtual or in person, how do we ensure that knowledge is shared?
My view is that psychological safety is one of the best ways to open up learners and facilitate knowledge sharing. Psychological safety is defined as the ability to take risks, through asking questions, identifying problems, making mistakes, etc. without fear of negative repercussion. Given the need for these behaviors in a learning environment, psychological safety is a critical part of the learning process. As an example, a study of the insurance industry in Taiwan shows that “when psychological safety reduces the negative emotions of employees during the learning process, employees are more inclined to seek out interactions, thereby improving job performance.” Another review from the Chinese banking industry revealed that psychological safety is 2X more influential on knowledge sharing than internal motivation. In other words, creating a fearless environment where reasonable questions and mistakes are not punished unlocks the benefits of social learning.
Creating psychological safety in training isn’t something that can be done in a vacuum. If people share, ask questions, or otherwise become vulnerable when learning but are negatively impacted after, it will grind learning to a halt.
Given that, there are specific tactics facilitators can apply to create a psychologically safe learning space, especially when we apply the S.E.E. model that looks at structures, expectations, and environment:
When we create safe spaces for learning, we tap into the inherently tribal nature of human beings. By being purposeful and starting with yourself, you can create an environment where everyone has an opportunity to share, be heard, and grow.
For other training tips, read our blog, Look Beyond the Platform: 8 Tips for Virtual Training Success.