When the internet was starting to get popular, I remember reading experts who said that it was going to revolutionize the world as we knew it. The reason? The internet was going to democratize knowledge. Anyone with an internet connection would be able to access anything and everything at any time. For everything from reading the works of classical philosophers to talking to experts from across the globe, the internet was seen as a synonym for knowledge.
That potential is very much alive today. Want proof of that? How-to videos, free college courses, open libraries, open repositories—the list goes on. The internet is the perfect example of how technology can serve a key purpose in generating, developing, and sharing knowledge. Naturally, it isn’t the only one.
Today, there are several applications and platforms that provide a similar potential. In fact, some of them are already focusing on a concept that has a close relationship with technology. I’m talking about knowledge reuse.
What Is Knowledge Reuse?
Knowledge reuse is a recycling process in which an individual or group reuses knowledge generated and shared by a third party. There are 3 major pillars to this process:
- Public – Anyone can access the knowledge.
- Repeatable – Knowledge can be reused as many times as needed.
- Beneficial – The knowledge provides an advantage to the process’s users.
Some of the things I cited above serve as examples of knowledge reusability. Whenever you search for a how-to video to fix your kitchen sink, you’re accessing (and reusing) a knowledge someone else generated and made publicly available. The same happens when you search for an entry in Wikipedia or download a piece of code from a repository.
Knowledge reuse is hardly a new concept. It has been around for several years now, but its newfound place in the limelight is directly related to the popularization of cloud-based technologies. That’s because these technologies leverage the internet’s inherent sharing capabilities to host and distribute knowledge among a large number of people.
That’s why knowledge management platforms are starting to become somewhat common across multiple organizations: They can democratize key knowledge among the organization members in a very straightforward manner. That’s especially true right now when a lot of those organizations are starting to adopt a remote model to function.
Those platforms have 2 distinct elements. On one side, there’s the knowledge itself, which can take the form of many contents, from articles to videos and anything in between. On the other side, there’s the people who generate and consume that content. Neglecting one of those elements is a critical error, as the knowledge that people don’t use is pointless and people who don’t share knowledge can’t benefit from the experience of others.
Why Should You Care About Knowledge Reuse?
Knowledge reuse might seem meaningless to you—but it shouldn’t. In a world where having information and insights can be a defining factor in any competitive field, a robust strategy around knowledge management and knowledge reuse is an invaluable asset. There are many scenarios in the business world that prove that:
- When onboarding new hires that have to take care of ongoing tasks and projects
- When adopting new technologies across multiple departments
- When defining company-wide protocols
- When developing new products and/or services
- When building new marketing campaigns
- When refining long-established processes
While you can do all those things without reusing knowledge, the reality is that you’ll lose a lot of time and effort in redoing something someone within your organization has already done. That’s unacceptable in today’s world, where all efforts and processes have to move at top speed to keep up with the pace of market and consumer demands.
What’s more, knowledge reuse is essential for digital acceleration, mainly because you can’t be distracted looking for answers you already have when readapting your workflow at breakneck speed.
The Relationship Between Technology and Knowledge Reuse
Now that you have the essentials of knowledge reuse, you surely understand why technology plays such a major role in its popularization. While you can generate, store, and share knowledge through any means or channel, the reality is that technology (especially cloud-based technologies) makes all of that far easier.
There are a couple of critical points in understanding this. On one hand, there’s the sharing component that basically defines knowledge reuse. While you can certainly use different methods to share knowledge materials with a group of people, the reality is that cloud-based solutions provide a level of accessibility and availability that is unrivaled.
On the other hand, there’s the improved collaboration embedded in knowledge reuse. In other words, this process is more than just sharing knowledge: It’s about how everything that’s being shared can be improved upon at any given moment by anyone with access to it. All that knowledge is constantly being improved, and since it’s stored in a central repository, it guarantees that everyone has access to the latest possible knowledge.
When you understand how essential both of those points are to knowledge reuse, you’ll see why technology is the best ally for this process. It just takes a centralized system available to all of your corporate users to share knowledge. Of course, all the contributions and improvements of the content hosted there have to be guided by a protocol that defines the best way to generate new knowledge and adjust existing knowledge.
Such a central platform provides different benefits. For one, it eliminates the wasted time that comes with finding answers to questions. All the answers within your company (all your combined knowledge) exist in a digital solution for everyone to see. That level of access doesn’t just mean that anyone can reuse the existing knowledge. It also provides a structured environment where people can search for answers to any question, regardless of how basic it might seem.
But perhaps the most important benefit of knowledge reuse through digital technologies is that it brings that democratization of knowledge right into your company. Modern companies should strive to be transparent about what they know and how they know things. Furthermore, they need to make sure that there aren’t knowledge silos within their teams. Finally, sharing knowledge through the reuse model can put into circulation a diversity of experiences, thoughts, and perspectives, all of which can positively impact your company.
In the end, you might get what the internet promised those experts all those years ago: a platform to democratize knowledge in your company, the result of the intimate relationship between tech and a knowledge reuse approach.