How do you share yours?

714Saw this on tembosocial which again poses the question why people within organisations don’t share.
Sharing is a fundamental mechanism in any kind of enterprise. From the development of the canteen discussions, water cooler moments, information management systems, knowledge management processes and now enterprise social networking platforms, sharing can bring immense value in the form of new innovations, improved decision-making, shorter time to market for new products, faster introduction of new hires, and so forth.
KM and social technologies make sharing of information, expertise and connections across the enterprise and beyond easier than ever before, but whether or not information is shared in a certain environment or situation always comes down to such things as people’s attitudes and behaviors (dare I use the word “culture”) in a group of people.
Despite the influx of KM and social tools into companies it does mean that people will automatically start to share what they know or information they possess with other people who might need it. The introduction of tools and processes are treated like many other IT projects, such as CRM and ERP systems, with fact finding, project management and configuration. But very few projects ever look to understand the psychology of sharing. We also need to understand the context in which we want people to start sharing with each other. When we have that understanding, we should have some idea of what buttons to push to make it happen, such as what technologies to use and how to design, implement and introduce them to the intended users.
One of the often neglected is to train people how to network. This doesn’t involve teaching people to hold regular coffee meetings or hand out business cards but show them the benefits of having a connected life within an organisation and the benefits this can achieve (or the cost if this is not achieved). In essence we are looking at building communities and the principles and benefits really haven’t changed since the Etienne Wenger days. In enterprises there is still little importance or regard paid to the development of communities, both physical and virtual. In communities individuals can build reputation, which is one of the key motivating factors for people to begin sharing.
Peer recognition is another key important factor that encourages sharing within an enterprise. Recognition means the most to us when it comes from those who really know the subject – who know what they’re talking about. It’s great to have your boss think you’re a top performer, but chances are your boss doesn’t know enough about the technical part of your work to know how good you really are – but your peers do.
Relationships are another key element to encourage knowledge sharing. An organisation can foster relationships many ways, but nearly all of them involve people being in conversation with each other. It is through conversation that we learn enough about the other to know the depth of their knowledge, where their strengths lay, what interests they have, and what they are passionate about.
By nature we generally want to share. But in most organisations we are faced with an environment that is not conducive to sharing. I have seen countless policies introduced by companies that appear hell bent on defeating the human tendency to share knowledge. One sure way is to create a situation where in order for one person to succeed the other has to lose. Too many organizations create those conditions with performance management systems that rank order or pit one person against another.
And fundamentally companies ask the wrong question. Rather than look to introducing tools and incentive schemes to share they should be looking at how do they develop relationships, communities, reputations and recognition that will set the wheels in motion for greater knowledge sharing?
PS – it you want to begin developing a knowledge sharing strategy in your organization start with watching ‘Pay it Forward’


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