Many organizations have invested significantly to create a “network effect,” where teams dispersed internationally are encouraged to use technologies to share, explore and innovate faster. As we’ve seen, additional tools don’t necessarily lead to additional collaboration and knowledge sharing. Often, the tools themselves become new silos of information, from which it is difficult if not impossible to extract relevant information.

Particularly in R&D departments comprised of highly educated, highly skilled specialists working in small groups, knowledge access and sharing can be a significant hurdle, and one that impacts innovation. Working in a very large engineering organization, with multiple departments working on multiple aspects of product design and engineering, chances are most engineers have an idea of what the five or six people around them have developed and what they know.

If they’ve worked for the organization for a number of years, this could extend to a hundred people, based on work over time. But what about the hundreds or potentially thousands of other experts in the organization? What information have they developed and shared? What kinds of product-related challenges have they encountered in their jobs? Subject matter experts often remain untapped resources, resulting in lost opportunities for R&D gains in innovation, efficiency and productivity.

Clearly, knowledge isn’t a great asset if it can’t be used to its fullest extent – with true understanding and insight, based on a complete picture versus that of a series of data points. How do your teams know what they know?