Informal knowledge sharing, conversations and exchange of ideas at the coffee machine, lunches, and hallway meetings happen all the time in big companies. Individually insignificant best practices scattered around a company and not captured in the existing systems add up to an enormous amount of knowledge. Julian Orr, an anthropologist at Xerox´s Palo Alto Research Center studied the behavior of sales reps and found out that most of the knowledge sharing happened during breakfast. These informal meetings gave the opportunity for sales reps to share their experiences and even generate new insights. Orr estimated that a quick breakfast was worth hours of training. By raising problems, offering solutions and discussing changes in their work, they kept the team knowledge up to date. In the words of Oxford historian Theodore Zelvin: “When minds meet, they don’t just exchange facts: they transform them, reshape them, draw different implications from them, engage in new trains of thought.”
Informal set ups give the opportunity for employees to discuss interesting projects and spiffy solutions to problems that others may also be experiencing outside formal processes and structured systems. Research by Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner (2007) suggests that the great majority (as much as 75% percent) of learning in the workplace is informal. This sociability is not just a retreat from the loneliness of an isolating job but a space where employees enjoy sharing their practical knowledge to continuously develop and grow. The reason why this knowledge transcends the corporate documentation is that it happens in a flexible and confortable environment of unrestricted dialogue. It allows workers to cross organizational boundaries and incorporate different sets of expertise and perspectives in their work practices.
Elqano technology has been developed around the concept of “unrestricted dialogue” by promoting simplicity and flexibility to ensure a high level of communication and knowledge sharing. Social media features such as the possibility to tag colleagues or recommend content to other participants surface hidden problems and opportunities and improves decision making and innovation. Employees can also see the chronology of a discussion in a document which addresses disengagement and lack of voice and helps employees feel a sense of ownership. Elqano creates a connected digital environment by allowing employees to collaborate even though the formal processes and systems assume they are working independently. Its technology enables the knowledge to be delivered to other employees in an interactive interface similar to talking to a colleague.
The filters that are used in Elqano´s interface focus on a particular topic such as “ Metal & Mining” or “Strategic Consulting”, thereby creating communities of practice and encouraging employees to take part actively. Our filtering structure is design to mirror informal knowledge set-ups such as lunch conversations where employees discuss and deep-dive into specific topics. Employees with a passion for a particular topic energize the community and provide intellectual and social leadership despite their spatial (locations) and temporal (work hours and time zones) boundaries. A study conducted by Butler Group revealed that employees spent ¼ of their day searching for people and information which accounted for 10% of labor costs. Assuming a company with 1 000 employees and an average salary of $55 000, Elqano´s implementation will already imply an annual saving of $5.5 million.