Knowledge market

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A large-scale intervention that is structured as a marketplace with knowledge traders and knowledge buyers. It is informal and enables informed connections and identification of the knowledge sharing needs of a community


A knowledge market enables large groups of people to make connections in a structured, yet informal, way and to help set a knowledge sharing agenda for the collective group. Designed as a marketplace with traders and buyers, this event often opens up opportunities for participants to identify potential collaborators and helps to establish the principles of knowledge sharing as one that has a collective benefit.

Setting up a knowledge marketplace

  1. In order to organise a knowledge market, firstly, invite all relevant organisational units to attend. If the intention is to trade between teams or projects then each unit needs to be represented by a a group of colleagues;
  2. It is possible to have individual traders, but this requires more detailed planning to enable them to each have a booth and to 'sell' and to 'buy' in the market place;
  3. Traders are firstly asked to identify the three knowledge knowledge areas they wish to share and the three knowledge areas that they would like to learn: their offers and needs;
  4. These offers and needs are written on `booths’ - A1 or A0 size pre-prepared templates that decorate the market hall. The logistics needed are:
    1. One 'market booth' per trading unit;
    2. One felt pen per market booth;
    3. Written instructions on the process;
    4. A pre-prepared 'shopping list'.
  5. Participants also note any knowledge that they believe they need. The needs and offers are articulated on the booth and together they represent the possible trades;
  6. When the market place is open, team members running the booth actively try to persuade potential customers of the usefulness and quality of the knowledge products they are offering. Participants not staffing booths – the shoppers, can add the products to their shopping lists;
  7. Organisers should analyse the booths for top needs and offers. These will inform the priorities for knowledge sharing ina community;
  8. Gaps may exist where needs are not met by offers. This information will help to establish a knowledge development/ R&D strategy.


Sellafield Supply Chain

Fig 1. Sellafield knowledge market

The then Supply Chain Ombudsman felt that the existing fora had tended to be mainly a one-way communication process, with suppliers voices not necessarily heard or given prominence on the agenda. What was needed, they believed was an event that allowed for two-way communications not only between the company and suppliers but also between suppliers themselves. From that belief, the first ever Sellafield Knowledge Market was launched on January 17th 2008.

The Knowledge Market was designed to help firms who are existing or potential suppliers to Sellafield, make new connections and share knowledge and skills with one another. The day began with a fun ‘speed dating’ activity to get everyone on their feet and talking.

Individuals from the respective businesses were then invited to write down their top three ‘needs’ and top three ‘offers’ on pre-printed charts. There were 98 booths created from the 170 delegates, with many collaborating on their booths. This number included delegates from the USA who had travelled specifically for this event. People were then invited to scan the market for needs and offers that were of interest to them, whilst promoting their own market booths and sharing their knowledge.

Delegates then identified the knowledge themes they wanted to discuss in more depth. This meant that the content of the day was decided by participants, not the organisers. The day ended with groups preparing detailed ‘knowledge maps’ within their chosen themes. The maps illustrated where answers to problems were found, where successful matches between needs and offers were made and also where knowledge gaps existed.

One of several suppliers, who provided positive feedback, commented that “I found the day extremely useful and made lots of contacts with potential partners and customers. I came away with over 13 strong contacts which we can support or work with." Speaking after the event, The Supply Chain Ombudsman said: “The success of this event demonstrates that we have a knowledgeable supply chain that complements the experienced Sellafield workforce. Feedback from attendees has been extremely positive with lots of new connections reported, both between suppliers and importantly between suppliers and Sellafield Ltd.”

By focusing on knowledge needs and offers, the event helped promote the fact that knowledge is a key asset for the nuclear industry and that Sellafield can develop innovative ways of working with its supply chain.

Critical success factors

  1. A team of experienced facilitators is needed with one taking the lead and an overview wand colleagues supporting the traders on the 'floor';
  2. The space available can affect the experience. Too small and it makes it difficult to organise; too large and it dissipates the impact;
  3. Large spaces may not have the best acoustics, so ensure participants also have a written set of instructions and / or can easily identify a facilitator to help them;
  4. The larger the number of participants, the harder it is for them to see any slides, so provide a copy;
  5. Ensure participants understand the timing of the market place. For instance, the first half of traders may have 45 minutes and the second group the same amount of time. This depends upon the size of the overall market (numbers of people/teams/projects;
  6. Facilitators should be experienced enough to 'know' when the energy is dropping in the room and act accordingly. This may mean closing the market.

Hints and tips

  1. The results provide an overview of:
  2. The knowledge that is available in the community (supply)
  3. The knowledge for which there is a need (demand)
  4. Knowledge products for which there is a demand but no supply;
  5. These results can be used to decide on themes for further sharing events and to develop R&D programmes, or other external sources, where no internal matches to needs have been found;
  6. Do not under-estimate the benefit of detailed planning in relation to the physical space, the number of participants and the time available;
  7. Make contingencies for more participants than had previously registered. It happens, so be ready;
  8. Make sure that participants are briefed prior to the event as to the aims and objectives of the knowledge market;
  9. Present clear guidelines at the start of the event and ensure that there is sufficient space is available for participants to follow those guidelines;
  10. These guidelines include a request to ensure that writing is neat and large enough to be read from a one to two metre distance;
  11. Whilst one facilitator takes the lead role, making sure that the team has an overview of the process, there needs to be sufficient numbers of facilitators local to the booths to support the participants in the process. The supply chain case study above benefited from having a team of seven facilitators on the ground;
  12. Analysing the offers and needs takes time with large events. It’s worth it;
  13. Although the preparation time should never be under-estimated as the devil is in the detail, the effort is worthwhile, not forgetting the adrenalin rush it brings to the team.