News & Updates

Knowledge Hoarding in the Age of Oversharing

By R. J. Stangle / Dec 16, 2014

We live in a world where people love to share. Everything. Ultrasound pictures, bathroom selfies- the fact that they’re eating a bacon sandwich right now.

On Facebook alone, more than 30 billion pieces of content get shared each month. But when we polled customer support organizations about how often agents share new learnings with their team, it only happens in 10% of cases.

From my experience, support agents tend to be well-intentioned victims of the “hoarding paradox”. Current knowledge management tools and processes don’t encourage sharing. And, processes for documenting new learnings are often inconvenient and cumbersome.

Just the idea of having to “document new learnings” in an age where we can upvote, comment and share information so seamlessly, so instantly, with so many people at once… seems outdated.


The right technology makes efficient knowledge sharing possible. (It’s certainly why over-sharing is so rampant!) But for technology to facilitate sharing, it has to be easy and intuitive to use.

Most importantly, the technology needs to be habit-forming, i.e. become a usual way of behaving; a process that support agents do often, in a regular and repeated way. This ensures that agents use it, improve it, and keep coming back.

Tip: Don’t over-engineer the knowledge sharing process. Make it simple and fast for agents to push new knowledge to the team as it happens – with no additional effort. In our surveys, 91% of tech support agents said they don’t capture new knowledge by writing or modifying articles in the knowledge base.

So let’s borrow from how social products are designed, thereby naturally encouraging knowledge capture and sharing on support teams.

Slack is a great example of a platform that borrows ideas from social consumer products to increase collaboration at work. It builds on people’s current digital communication habits and helps make workplace communication easier and more efficient. Their approach for “hooking” users, which has garnered them an astonishing 93% user retention rate includes:

  • Triggers: Have cues for users to take action, like notifications.
  • Actions: Make triggers clear, focused and device-agnostic to increase the likelihood of the user taking a key action as it happens, through any available medium.
  • Rewards: Offer intermittent rewards at unpredictable intervals, such as offering new tidbits of information or feedback from peers.
  • Investment: Create a loop where users put work into the product to make it more useful; thus increasing the likelihood of them using it again and again.

(You can read about Slack’s habit forming approach in detail here.)

Tip: Make sure technology caters to sharing knowledge on the web. According to our surveys, tech support agents are using the web more than half the time to solve tech support issues. But finding and testing the right solutions online can take up to 15% of their time each day.

Many of the agents I’ve observed are bookmarking sites or using note-taking apps to store web content they want to reuse. But this doesn’t fix the sharing problem. In fact, it only perpetuates the likelihood of knowledge hoarding.

Finding solutions on the web faster and having an easy way to share them with the team are two of the problems we solve with Reveal. With one click of a button, agents can capture and share content from the web that’s been validated by peers, and it automatically surfaces the next time anyone on the team searches for help on similar issues. Our data shows that when a Reveal recommendation is surfaced – research time drops by over 50%.

Tip: Leave knowledge where it is. While it would be ideal to have all the best knowledge created and stored in one place, we know that the world doesn’t work this way anymore (arguably, it never has). Instead of trying to force a single place to store company-wide knowledge, let different teams store their content where they like.

The reality is, teams use different platforms to capture knowledge, SharePoint, Salesforce Confluence.. and they also collaborate on different platforms like Outlook, Slack and Hipchat etc.. These systems are rich with valuable knowledge and information, but they’re disconnected. This is why organizations should consider a unified search strategy with search tools like Google’s Search Appliance, that can index different content sources and make them all searchable in one place.


Leveraging natural social reflexes is the future of knowledge management, and tools need to support people working collaboratively and building on each other’s knowledge. Our philosophy with Reveal is to make it really simple for people to capture and share knowledge and collaborate in a quick, simple way that doesn’t disrupt their current workflows.

Agents should have the ability to upvote content, make comments, share content with team members and capture important tribal knowledge flowing on different communication channels. We’re building Reveal to seamlessly bring the best content from different sources to one place where your whole support team can access it.

We’re hosting a webinar on How Social Apps Shape the Future of Enterprise Knowledge Management on March 31. Learn how to leverage consumer-style collaboration tools and techniques, such as content curation and unified search, to improve enterprise knowledge discovery and sharing.

Register now to save your spot!