Mar 09 2018

Knowledge Sharing: Findings from Two Pilots

Good communication is hard to find. And communicating effectively within an organization is necessary for success, but especially when organizations take on big challenges. Huggy Rao and two doctoral students from Stanford Graduate School of Business created a knowledge sharing platform specifically designed for credit unions. This report shares what Filene learned from this pilot project, and what credit union leaders can do to cultivate an environment for better knowledge sharing in their organizations.

Huggy Rao
Huggy Rao
Atholl McBean Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resources at Stanford University
Report Number 444

Executive Summary

Credit union leaders and managers can congratulate themselves because the mission-driven aspect of their organizations has everyone, from the front lines to the back office, aligned on the values, direction, and mission of the organization. We know there are many examples of this, and we not only admire the cultural triumphs of these well-run organizations, but borrow from them as much as possible to learn and practice their techniques.

But even the best organizations cannot run perfectly all of the time. Case in point: cultures change. People come and people go. Sometimes organizational norms, such as the sharing of ideas, lose prominence, or bad habits emerge and take hold. Organizations are like living organisms that need continual tending, cultivation, and care. Credit union leaders and managers have a variety of tools and practices at the ready to use in achieving their ends.

What is this research about?

This research aims to examine how knowledge sharing can be improved among credit unions. Directed by Hayagreeva “Huggy” Rao, professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Filene Fellow, along with doctoral students, Ruo Jia and Jacob Model, both of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the research explores adapting the conditions for sharing knowledge among credit union employees. They wondered if creating a forum where all ideas could be submitted and ranked anonymously would provide the necessary conditions leading to improved knowledge sharing among employees and improved quality of ideas, which could potentially advance the organization toward innovative practices.

Along with assistance from Passageways, a software company specializing in collaborative software products for banks and credit unions, the research team built an online platform where credit union employees were encouraged to anonymously share ideas within the organization.

Pilot testing of the knowledge sharing platform within two different credit unions produced insights about credit union organizational culture and idea generation, and about what to do with so many new ideas. Additionally, the role that safety and trust play in knowledge sharing was clear with this application, as was the timing for launching and using such a knowledge sharing tool.

Take our knowledge sharing quiz to find where your organization falls on the knowledge sharing spectrum, and download the report to learn more.

What are the credit union implications?

Improving the knowledge sharing process will not necessarily make an organization successful. But credit unions that continually strive to find their knowledge sharing sweet spots will be better equipped for supporting a culture that encourages innovative collaboration.

  • Knowledge sharing among employees is necessary for innovation, but needs to be continually cultivated. Credit unions should use a variety of knowledge sharing activities to keep innovative opportunities within reach.
  • Before starting with idea generation, credit union leaders need to examine the level of cognitive burden that already exists within the organization. If employees feel overburdened with a backlog of ideas awaiting implementation, generating new opportunities for innovation could be lost.
  • The diversity of ideas is more important than the quality of ideas shared. Having a means to safely share diverse ideas is crucial for the best ideas to gain prominence.
  • Don’t skimp on the user experience. If the goal is to develop an idea sharing platform and ensure successful engagement, design the platform to be user-friendly, mobile, and app-like.


Filene thanks its sponsors for helping to make this research possible.