The 6 Factors of Knowledge Worker Productivity: Chapter 8 – Factor 5 – External Communication

From their review of over 800 papers our researchers identified 6 factors that are associated with Knowledge Worker Productivity. Whilst most of the research related to the productivity of Knowledge Worker teams, many of the findings can be translated to apply to organisations, divisions or units. Here’s the fifth factor: External communication.


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‘External Communication: The ability of teams to span boundaries (team and organisational) to seek information and resources from others.’

In other words….. ‘get out more’. Too often people spend their time at work cocooned in the world of their organisation and that of their team.  With this factor we are talking about people exposing themselves to the views and experiences of diverse groups of people outside their team and organisation in order to shape their ideas and bring back new ideas and insights to the organisation to fuel innovation and to maintain their vigour.

Why is this important?

If people gain all their understandings, insights and knowledge from within the organisation there is a danger of ‘group think’. In other words, people gain comfort in thinking that the work the organisation is doing is leading edge. People become very wedded to their own ideas and reject ideas that were ‘not invented here’. Without exposing your people to the outside world through events, reading, social networks or professional institutions there is a danger that their ‘knowledge assets’ become out of date, devoid of challenge and new thinking. Your people’s knowledge becomes obsolete and your organisation stagnates or is overtaken by the competition.

Too often in my experience large successful organisations and leaders become over-confident about their organisations capabilities believing that they are at the top of their game and can do anything they want. That can sometime lead to complacency and even arrogance further down the organisation. Having open communication and exposure to the outside world with an additional process for bringing back and using new ideas, will prove to be a workplace management strategy that will makes sure that the organisation stays vibrant.

Who should you seek to be exposed to? The simple answer is, people and organisations who are least like you and your organisation. Innovative ideas will seldom come from organisations within your sector or discipline. Go out of your way to look outside your team, division and organisation for groups and people who are not like you. Developing relationships within your sector may be useful for future career opportunities but you are unlikely to be challenged to think in different ways.

That’s all for this week and as usual, I leave you with something to consider – make a list of the dealings and communication you have with people and teams outside your own team and the number of hours you spend being exposed to others from more diverse backgrounds. If it’s less than 10% of your time – be worried!!!

In the next blog, we will be discussing the 6th factor of Knowledge Worker Productivity.

For a more defined workplace strategy that will enable the appropriate amount of external communication and boost productivity, call AWA on +44 207 743 7110. Alternatively, you can email with your inquiry. Advanced Workplace Associates are based in London, United Kingdom but now work internationally across the United States of America, Asia and Europe.

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