Sharing best practice: less give and more take?

I was involved recently in a panel discussion at a global conference for one of our multinational clients. A question came from the floor asking what the marketing group could do to get better at sharing best practice across brand teams.

They are not alone in facing this challenge. Nick Fell, the Group Marketing Director at SABMiller encapsulates the issue in a phrase he uses as the sign off on his emails: "If SABMiller did everywhere what SABMiller does brilliantly somewhere...".

There are all sorts of practical approaches to try and leverage effective ways of working: on-line knowledge sharing systems, peer reviews, management conferences, best practice toolkits and awards schemes are just a few that spring to mind.

The mindset challenge

But for me the real solution lies in people’s mindsets and the perspective they bring to sharing. For best practice to be ‘transferred’, it must be put into practice somewhere else. It is not enough for someone simply to share it with others - the recipients actually have to take it up and implement it themselves.

This is where a lot of the problems arise. Most successful business people find it quite enjoyable and rewarding to share stories about what they’ve been up to, what they’ve done well and what others can learn from their experience. But opening up about one’s areas of weakness, searching for new learning and embracing other people’s ideas are all habits that we all would probably admit are much less widespread. There are always lots of reasons that can be found for why an idea might not work in one’s own particular situation, but are these always really valid or justified?

From sharing to exchanging

For best practice to make its way around businesses more effectively, I believe ‘exchange’ is a more useful concept to work with. For people to exchange ideas means that they have to be open to both sharing and receiving ideas, recognising the value of both. It’s about being keen to take as well as to give.

Coca Cola’s Happiness Machine is a great example of this:

The concept originally used on a US university campus has now been adapted and implemented worldwide in countries as diverse as Brazil, the UK, Canada, the Philippines, Ukraine and even Mongolia. In some of these markets the machine has been converted into a Happiness Truck cruising the streets of major cities, attracting millions of views on YouTube along the way.

So, in the spirit of less give and more take, I’ll finish by asking you to share your examples of successful knowledge transfer and exchange and the attitudes that helped bring them about...

For more information about how Brand Learning can help you lift your organisation’s capabilities, please get in touch or contact me directly @AndyBird_BL. You may also like these films, perspectives and resources on Learning.

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