Knowledge is something all people have, but it only represents value when it is used. This statement is a key leadership challenge as the nature of work changes.
Digital is the contemporary way of working. It makes work more individual and it simplifies, accelerates and clarifies. With an increasing level of digitisation, organisations are becoming more rich with information in their quest for competitive advantage. Work is being decentralised and transformed to knowledge work. People at all organisational levels are striving to combine specialised skills with the ability to master relationships with colleagues, customers and partners.
Working relationships are changing and the nature of work has increasingly become non-bounded and tied to neither place nor time. Working hours are more fluid and work environments more flexible. Planning and executing work cannot be strictly separated any more. People manage their own tasks and commitments, they self-supervise and organise work between themselves and others with digital technology. Work is being reorganised and re-planned when situations and needs change. Brainwork, interactions, communications and decision-making have increased, as have different forms of learning and knowledge tied to new ways of working.
Knowledge is said to be the awareness or understanding of something. It often means different things to different people depending on the social context, filtered through experiences, references and values to interpret a situation. Explicit, structured or codified knowledge is rather easy to share, but sharing tacit and unstructured knowledge, which involves deep and intuitive understanding, is harder, since it cannot be isolated from the situational context or earlier achievements.
As knowledge becomes more complex and distributed, it becomes more specialised and thus in need of coordination. Knowledge integration is a process, which deals with this and focuses on synthesizing the understanding of a given subject from different perspectives. It is a learning process of reflection, exchange of thoughts and exploration of perspectives in order to achieve intelligent and coordinated actions.
Collective intelligence can be viewed as an organisation’s capability of seeking information, and exploring perspectives and interpretations through the wisdom of the people engaged in the company. Without a shared understanding of the situation, solutions seldom become effective.
To develop the collective intelligence, as well as the capability to integrate knowledge, organisations need to develop unified situational understanding and common mental pictures by exploring different perspectives. Organisations need to enhance the degree of reflective thinking and increase the trust between people. To gain deeper insights and find better solutions, perspectives need to be open for discussion and fixed assumptions need to be disclosed.