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If you’re setting out to build a culture of competitive intelligence within your organization, it’s critical to ensure you have appropriate recognition and reward systems that encourage and reinforce positive knowledge sharing behaviors. 

An effective incentive structure is central to getting the buy-in and support that a major organizational culture change demands. Without support from a wide variety of contributors across the organization, competitive intelligence efforts can quickly fall flat, often being deprioritized before they have even had a chance to show returns. To incentivize the right behaviors, it’s important to ensure that everyone in the organization realizes the true value of competitive intelligence, and understands the impact that knowledge sharing and collaboration can have on future business results. 

It’s is equally important to recognize, reward, and reinforce the behaviors that reflect a shift to this culture. Your recognition and reward systems should be driven by your organizational culture, and connected to the behaviors that you want to incentivize. 

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Defining CI Recognition and Rewards?

Before we explore the best practices for recognition and rewards, it’s helpful to clarify exactly what we mean by both recognition and rewards: 

Recognition is visible or public reinforcement to either an individual or a team for their contribution in modeling a desired behavior, in this instance knowledge sharing behaviors.

This can take the form of one-on-one feedback, a shoutout in a team meeting, or even a message in a shared Slack channel.

Rewards are tangible items like money, promotions, gifts, and other related items. They may be awarded on a periodic basis, such as during quarterly reviews or end of year meetings, or as a surprise during the regular course of business. 

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Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivators

When encouraging individuals across an organization to contribute to knowledge sharing efforts, there are two forms of motivation to consider: intrinsic and extrinsic. 

Intrinsic motivators come from within an individual. Team members are intrinsically motivated to participate in knowledge sharing activities when they believe that the task will help them meet their goals. This underscores the importance of educating team members on the role and impact of competitive intelligence and knowledge sharing efforts, and educating them on how participating in these activities will help them perform at a higher level. 

Consider a salesperson researching a competitor. The salesperson is intrinsically motivated to do this, as it helps them to discover insights that they can use to increase their odds of winning their next deal. But the intelligence generated through this research and analysis is also beneficial to teammates, the wider sales organization, and the CI function. To encourage knowledge sharing, the organization should create motivators that encourage the salesperson to share what they discover.

Extrinsic motivators are external stimuli that directly offer some form of reward as an incentive to model desired behaviors. In the case of knowledge sharing, we can say that if someone is only participating in knowledge sharing activities because the reward is some form of monetary compensation, then they are extrinsically motivated.

A word of warning; extrinsic motivators can cause people to see knowledge sharing tasks as a means to an end, rather than an investment in a reciprocal relationship that benefits the entire organization.

Overall, it is best to work towards a culture of intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic rewards, while helpful to immediately incentivize knowledge sharing, can quickly become detrimental: they can incentivize employees to conceal problems, work in silos, and focus on "checking the box" rather than taking meaningful actions.

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The Four Best Practices for Fostering a Culture of Knowledge Sharing

The strategies you deploy to implement reward and recognition stems in your organization will be driven by several factors, including the size of your organization, the current maturity of knowledge sharing efforts, and your company's culture. 

As you implement your strategy, consider the following best practices:

  1. Acknowledge Contributors

    Make sure to actively acknowledge all of the contributions and ideas that flow into the knowledge sharing effort from across the organization. In this instance, the old adage that no idea is a bad idea holds true. The last thing you want to do is criticize or ignore knowledge that someone shares; this is a sure-fire way to make sure they’ll never contribute again in the future.  

  2. Identify Knowledge Sharing Champions for Special Recognition

    Pinpoint the people within your organization who are going out of their way to contribute to knowledge sharing, especially when it doesn’t directly impact them. An example of this could be a salesperson sharing competitor analysis for a deal a colleague is working on. 

    Individuals who exhibit these sorts of behaviors are your change agents. They play a major role in leading the transformation to a knowledge sharing culture, and you should be sure to give them special recognition. 

  3. Leverage Subject Matter Experts

    Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are individuals with unique, unrivaled knowledge in certain fields. They are imperative to knowledge sharing efforts, because they represent the authority on their particular subject. 

    Often, SMEs are intrinsically motivated to participate in knowledge sharing issues, as these activities are in their field of interest. Seek out these individuals and actively recruit them to help lead knowledge sharing efforts by sharing their expertise across the organization.

  4. Make Knowledge Sharing Safe and Easy

    Focus on creating a safe, accessible space for your team members to share knowledge. Take time to build trust, and create a Code of Ethics that team members can refer to in order to determine what knowledge is acceptable to share. A great place to start is the SCIP Code of Ethics

    As well as creating a safe space to share knowledge, focus on making knowledge sharing as frictionless as possible. The best way to do this is to work with a centralized Market and Competitive Intelligence (M/CI) platform, like Knowledge360Ⓡ. This ensures the entire organization can view the latest insights on collaborative dashboards, and can upload their own knowledge into a shared, universal system.

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Final Thoughts on Using Recognition and Reward Stems to Encourage Knowledge Sharing

The shift towards ‘the intelligent company’ doesn’t happen overnight, and is certainly more of a long-term strategic initiative than an instant short-term win. But with the right incentive framework, technology platforms, and leadership, it’s possible for any organization to build a culture of knowledge sharing

Harnessing every employee in an organization in the competitive intelligence process represents a major strategic win. In this case, the sum is infinitely greater than the parts, and the competitive and market insights unlocked from widespread knowledge sharing can drive significant value for organizations. Armed with higher quality knowledge, organizations can make decisions with greater confidence, and take steps to ensure they stay a step ahead of their competition. 

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