Vital behaviours for knowledge sharing

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —April 24, 2009
Filed in Culture

My colleague Hugh Bathurst is currently working for an engineering firm helping one of the divisions develop a knowledge sharing culture. Hugh has been collecting stories, eliciting how things get done and encouraging peope to contribute to developing of a range of knowledge resources.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting the manager who’s sponsoring this initiative. His division is leading the firm financially and he puts their success largely down to the knowledge sharing initiatives, especially their ability to transform their culture over the last 18 months. So I asked him, “what behaviours do you see now that weren’t there when you started?”

I find this question really gets people thinking because in many cases managers don’t think about culture in terms of behaviours. “Hmmm, I think people spend more time moving about the floor and having conversations,” he said first. “But now I think of it, there are two things that have made the biggest difference. We call one of them Active Introductions. It’s where I accompany Hugh when we first introduce a new person to our knowledge sharing initiatives. I sit next to Hugh as he explains the program to show that knowledge sharing is important. After about 5 minutes, when I see they are getting it, I say I’ll leave you guys to work through the details and I head off.”

“The second thing we do is to identify what we call Beacons. These are the people who really get into knowledge sharing. They are like a bright light. We make sure the beacons are spread across the floor so they shine on as many people as possible and we keep their energy up by heaping praise on their good work.”

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:


  1. This seems like a less research-oriented version of Rob Cross’ book The Hidden Power of Social Networks. Instead of creating informal talks, he takes surveys, analyzes them, graphs them into a social network diagram and then comes back with his findings. He then crafts how to ‘share knowledge’ with ‘critical connections’. I like your rule of thumb (talk to everyone) better than his (talk to this person).
    He also has a great section in his book where he identifies the five main characteristics of what he calls ‘energizers’ and you call ‘beacons’. i wrote about it in this blog post
    And sorry if you already knew this, and sorry for the shameless plug

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