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Michael Stipe sang (in the song “King of Birds”) that “standing on the shoulders of giants leaves me cold.” Stipe was referring to Sir Isaac Newton’s statement that humans can best move knowledge forward together; building on the knowledge of those who came before. Personally, I find standing on the shoulders of giants exciting and rewarding. I actively look for "shoulder standers." Their commitment to sharing and improving knowledge will make your team even more successful.

This is the core promise of knowledge sharing. As a team, we know more--with greater accuracy, completeness, and speed than any one of us knows individually. Knowledge sharing changes how we look for new team members. As we make sharing part of what we do every day, we need to find team members (and convince the ones we already have) to build knowledge together.

By putting more emphasis on the ability to share knowledge, deep technical knowledge or subject-matter expertise becomes less important for successful candidates. Finding people with great customer service skills and subject-matter expertise can be hard. Knowledge-sharing practices provide the best of both worlds, making it easier to find and train the right team members.

How can you find great shoulder standers? Here are three suggestions.

1. Change how you rank team members (both prospective and existing).

As a hiring manager, I had to change how I evaluated candidates as I learned the power of knowledge sharing. I modified my rankings of skills and attributes for team members to move teamwork and knowledge sharing to the top. Here are my rankings:

  1. Proven ability to share knowledge effectively and collaborate with the team to create knowledge.
  2. Commitment to an excellent customer experience.
  3. Ability to express that commitment in written and verbal form.
  4. Deep subject-matter expertise.
  5. Everything else.

These rankings also need to make their way into both formal job descriptions and hiring advertisements.

2. Look for evidence in the resume.

Carefully review the resume to see how the candidate talks about her experiences. Does she mention a team she worked on? If so, how many times? If she has experience leading a team, how many times does she highlight the team’s accomplishments? Do a quick count to get the ratio of self versus team mentions. It will give you a good yardstick for comparing candidates during the final selection process.

3. Involve the team in interviews.

Looking for a shoulder stander requires more than just the hiring manager. The team will play a key role in seeing if the prospect fits in the organization. Give the team an opportunity to talk about how you share knowledge. Then let them ask their own questions. The members of your team know better how they work than you do. Let them rank the candidates, and take their ranking seriously as you make the final decision.

Finding shoulder standers--great knowledge sharers--is important to sustaining your knowledge-sharing program. For more on building and sustaining a knowledge-sharing program, join me in the Klever Community & Library (now a free subscription).

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About Adam Krob

About Author About Adam Krob

For more than two decades, Dr. Adam Krob has studied and evaluated IT and customer support organizations. While his career spans numerous areas, his core focus has always been the optimal alignment of support with the company's goals and the use of knowledge management practices, such as KCS, as a tool to achieve these goals. Dr. Krob is a pioneer in enhancing overall perceptions of service and in the transformation of support from a reactive to a proactive enterprise. Dr. Krob is the co-founder of Klever, a company dedicated to bringing common sense to knowledge-sharing practices. He received his MA and PhD in political science from Duke University and his MBA from Tulane’s Freeman School of Business.