Barriers to Knowledge Transfer and How to Overcome Them

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Barriers to Knowledge Transfer and How to Overcome Them - Quandora  Knowledge Management

Organizations can benefit greatly from all the knowledge and experiences acquired by their employees after completing previous projects. However, many employers still haven’t harnessed this opportunity. The benefits of knowledge transfer include creating better procedures for new projects, but also saving time and money by minimizing mistakes. Not to mention improving and innovating inside the company.

In an increasingly digital world, one of the organization’s strategic assets is knowledge. After all, it’s something that can offer a business a significant competitive advantage compared to its competitors.

An organization’s ability to identify critical knowledge, create new knowledge or transfer it from one level/team to another are all critical factors for achieving success. 

But… there’s also a “but”. 

There are a lot of situations where, because of various barriers, knowledge cannot be transferred. It’s quite frequent that knowledge sharing practices are not exactly effective or don’t exist at all. And this leads to a big question: why is this happening?!

Knowledge management is one of the most important things a distributed team can do. Not only does it remove communication barriers among team members, but it also increases the ease and efficiency with which they transfer information.

From a manager’s perspective, the biggest issue can be motivating the team to share their knowledge. We can understand why, and we’ve got your back.

Let’s take a few moments to talk about some of the most common barriers which can make your knowledge transfer process difficult. Bonus, we also thought of a few ways of overcoming them.

How to overcome barriers to knowledge transfer in your organization

We have identified three types of barriers so far, each one with their own particularities. The first sharing barrier is personal knowledge, the second is organizational knowledge, and the third is technological knowledge.

Most often, a combination of the following factors can lead to several business problems:

  • a combination of a general lack of time to share knowledge or time to identify colleagues in need of specific information.
  • difficulties in integrating a knowledge management strategy and sharing initiatives into the company’s goals.
  • a lack of the proper tools for managing all the knowledge at your disposal.

1. Complete lack of a business purpose

Unfortunately, a lot of companies treat knowledge management as an end purpose in itself. They create a program believing that it will pay off later. At times they do it simply because they believe an effective organization should be able to share knowledge across the entire team. 

And guess what? It doesn’t happen like this, in most cases. 

A successful knowledge transfer process begins with mapping all the business problems a knowledge management solution can solve.

Ernst & Young, for example, developed a “PowerPack” collection of documents, containing information tailored to specific industries. The solution had one purpose: helping consultants develop proposals faster. Also, Ford Motor Co. used a Best Practice Replication system, which comes in handy to plant managers who want to achieve the company’s objective of registering 5% annual productivity improvements. 

Therefore, the idea is simple: plan ahead, have a purpose, get organized.

2. Knowledge hoarding

As mentioned previously, managers have real difficulties with team members who are hesitant to contribute their knowledge for the greater good. And by the greater good, we mean the company’s benefit. 

This is actually a very common barrier to knowledge transfer, known as knowledge hoarding. 

Knowledge hoarders completely agree that “knowledge is power”. But they often believe that by sharing what they know, the value of an organization can decrease and eventually put their jobs in danger. The biggest problem is that this belief can be spread across the entire company. This is linked to cultural barriers or misaligned measures. 
The best approach to solve this is to present employees who possess valuable information, a complete list of all the benefits knowledge sharing brings. And always make sure to have a reward structure for sharing.

3. No customization in knowledge management

Here’s something that not all business owners or managers are aware of: knowledge management is not exactly a one-size-fits-all program. The best results can be delivered when programs are developed by taking into consideration the needs of the organization and its individual users. 

We mentioned previously EY’s PowerPacks above, designed for consultants in specific industries. Chevron also has a Project Resources Group, a team of internal consultants, that cover specific areas with their expertise. 

In this case, everything is based on the idea that a knowledge transfer system is less effective if it’s designed for the entire organization, instead of – at least – focusing on specific groups.


To wrap up, any company should keep one thing in mind: facilitating the capture of knowledge remains foundational for growth and development. Whether you are dealing with barriers or not, making it easy for all team members to transfer knowledge into the service of the organization is important. 

Knowledge sharing can be used as a significant competitive advantage. We’ve covered this subject previously if you want to find out more.

Looking for a great way to ask questions and build knowledge with your co-workers? Quandora enables simple, efficient knowledge sharing with your team, way more fun than a mailing list or a forum. Try Quandora

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