Company Knowledge: Army of second Brains

Every company wants excellent employees for each department. Talking about: Experts! That can be hard. Especially for small businesses. They have to look for all-rounders because they often don’t have the capacity to hire specialists for every domain. But the Jacks of all trades have to be fed with new learnings.  So how can you extract and use company knowledge? The solution is a knowledge management system that we call the army of second brains. Let’s have a look!

Unfortunately, in an early-stage company (5 to 20 FTE), you cannot hire an experienced expert for every domain. So how can a company maximize its expert knowledge without increasing its manpower? You need a pipeline to collect the knowledge of every employee! Company knowledge is basically 90% personal knowledge done right!

Company knowledge base in three steps:

  1. Hiring Swiss pocket knives with a passion for learning new things
  2. Enable every employee to build a personal second brain
  3. Connect them to an army of second brains

So first things first: starting with the right team. The key are generalists who can acquire the specific knowledge you need! Want an example? Look at us: We are a software agency. As a very product and tech-oriented team, we needed to dive into non-tech topics. For instance, we had to figure out B2B sales. We deconstructed things like acquisition channels, customer journey, positioning, messaging, USPs, negotiations, closing enterprise deals, etc. But be careful! Do not bring the pot to overflow! Every brain has its limits.

The case is clear: You need a second brain. You can see it as a silo of knowledge. Most of us unconsciously have some sort of second brain. Often the system is inefficient and not scalable: like using post-its. Imagine a wall full of thousands of little paper notes. A builder’s colorful nightmare. You can save new inputs and ideas. But picking the right corn out of the silo is quite laborious…

So how do builders do it?

Here is a setup of aninformation-processing-system!

  1. Discover an interesting piece of information: a blog post, article, white paper, etc.
  2. Read it right away or save it for later. In both cases use Instapaper. Highlight important parts!
  3. Import all highlights and the article’s metadata automatically into Readwise.
  4. Trigger an export of all new learnings regularly.
  5. Get all the knowledge condensed and well-structured in is a very good platform to discover new topics. There will be an article about all our favorite knowledge sources.  Do you want to build your own second brain? Then put your email below and stay updated!

So that’s quite a tool-heavy setup. But it’s worth it! There are a lot of advantages! Starting with an ad-free environment in Instapaper. No, distractions! Continuing, with a clear structure of all your articles in obsidian. This second brain is sorted by article and has some automatic metadata such as title and author. You can easily revisit things and get creative with new ideas. It is not polluting your notebook or to-do list. We are talking about a clear read-it-later pipeline for all articles that you find while working or on the go: All the information lands in a condensed, interlinked form of usable information.

It’s a trap! Or, it could be.

The key point is revisiting! Not just read one, learn from it. Conclude! Otherwise, you end up in the reader’s trap. You want to grow your knowledge, not just read!

Now you have a perfect Setup! 90% done! The next step: connecting your employee’s second brains!  If you use obsidian properly the information would be interlinked too much. Personal- and Company-Knowledge would mix up. Furthermore, you have to make your notes understandable for others in the context of company knowledge.

If you make your notes intelligible for others, it means you’ve way over-engineered it for personal use.

Tiago Forte, an expert for second brains.

And that’s the thing! If you are working on your own notes you draw conclusions, condense information, and so on.  That is perfect for your personal understanding. But others can’t reconstruct what you were thinking while working on it. You need a connecting element.

The Chosen one is Coda!  It’s the tool we picked for creating an army of second brains: the company-knowledge-collection. The personal knowledge flow is still the main part. Here most of the work happens. But the crucial point is to make the knowledge available to the company. Therefore, the densest and most understandable versions of company-relevant knowledge are copied from individual second brains to the knowledge base. This can be used for meetings, next steps etc. So basically our company knowledge base is an army of second brains copy/pasted together!  

P.S: Bonus tip – Copy and paste from the Obsidian preview mode to avoid the need to reformat in Coda!