How often do you do work that has never been done before, or solve issues that have never been solved before, at your company? That’s the question I posed recently in a survey that generated responses from more than 400 knowledge workers across industries.

Surprisingly, only seven percent said that the work they do and the problems they solve are new to their organizations more than 75 percent of the time. The majority reported that they do new work or solve new issues less than 25 percent of the time.

And yet, less than 30 percent of knowledge workers surveyed said that they are quickly and easily able to reuse past work to accomplish their jobs. More than 40 percent reported being able to do this less than 50 percent of the time. The conclusion? The majority of knowledge workers do the same things, over and over, and yet are unable to easily leverage past work to speed current work or make it more effective.

And they believe this represents a significant opportunity for their companies. When asked what would be the impact on their business of being able to leverage 98% of their company’s knowledge and expertise (see Knowledge & The 98% Rule):

  • 18 percent of respondents felt sales would increase by more than 50 percent
  • 13 percent felt sales would increase between 26 and 50 percent
  • 12 percent felt sales would increase between 11 and 25 percent
  • 8 percent felt sales would increase up to 10 percent

The remainder were unsure (30 percent) or felt there would not be an impact (18 percent).

Easy and fast access to relevant knowledge and expertise clearly helps to increase proficiency. In the sales arena, such an ability would help to up-level new sales representatives faster, as well as enable C performers to become B performers, quickly.

The knowledge workers surveyed found even greater opportunity in the areas of innovation and employee productivity. The full results of the new survey will be released in July 2014.

How much of the work at your organization has been done before, and how easily can past work be recouped?

The majority of survey respondents were individual contributors, and they were spread out fairly evenly across organizational departments. This is the first part of a two-part survey, the results of which will be published in July 2014. The second part is a survey of knowledge management practitioners.