Why is Knowledge Sharing so different in the corporate world?

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Users spend over a hundred hours every month on collaborative sites like Wikipedia. While it seems cruel to call this Knowledge “Management”, it does describe the very foundation of KM. Get people to share their knowledge.

More importantly, this cultural phenomenon has shown long term sustainability of such initiatives without traditional drivers like Rewards and Recognition. ( Read Here ). Which addresses the basic question this post raises : Why is Knowledge Sharing so different in the corporate world? For a lot of you the answer might seem obvious, but with the trend of KM adoption in corporates rising there is a serious need to understand what can be done about this.

There are many instances where KM seems to flourish outside the corporate sphere. Now the question is, why does this happen? In most cases these are the same people doing the sharing. What makes it so different within an organization?

True, there are certain pre-concieved notions about corporates. The biggest of which is that you always seem to have someone looking over your shoulder. Add to that the fact that you need to be extremely careful about the things you say or do and you have a system designed to cut off free information sharing at its knees.

Wikipedia is a prime example of Knowledge Sharing, here thousands of strangers help put together an amazing collection of information without any percievable reward. You might say the reward here is recognition. However, if you take a closer look, a large portion of these contributors are annonymous.

So why do they do it? What drives this need to share knowledge , when everything we’ve learnt so far tells us that we shouldn’t. Would you spend that much time contributing?

The answer i feel lies in the fundemental issue of competitiveness. It exists in the corporate world, it does not outside it. When you remove an individual from those restrains you get to see the true “sharing” potential of a person.

As always, please feel free to put down your thoughts on this subject…….

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6 Responses to Why is Knowledge Sharing so different in the corporate world?

  1. Chandni says:

    Glad you raised this topic.

    In my opinion, the answer lies in the way we as humans percieve an environment or system.

    The more voluntary the role, the greater the willingness to share. The lesser the judgment or evaluation of performance, the greater the freedom of expression.
    I think that competition redirects energy or focus from the main issue as hand – knowledge or know-how. An open system or medium such as wikipedia allows people to contribute in a meaningful way that in turn is beneficial to millions of others. So the intent or purpose of the whole system is very powerful and attractive to pull people to contribute.

    These are some things that organizations need to think of when planning KM initiatives.

  2. Arjun Thomas says:

    Chandini,

    Well put…. it’s true, the very processes that try to improve efficiency and effectiveness ironically prevent actual learning and knowledge sharing from taking place.

    As long as we have deadlines, clients and SLA’s to meet, the journey to true knowledge sharing and corporate maturity seems a long way of.

  3. Raghunath Shende says:

    People wants to contribute to knowledge voluntarily. However in corporate world two things refrain people to contribute to internal KM – one is there are may competitors all round in the same environment, second is HR starts making it into Perofrmance based ‘commitments’ and also it is liked to payments.

  4. Arjun Thomas says:

    True, but i’m seeing a serious shift in thought in a large number of corporates. They have started rewarding collaborators and contributors much more than before.

    When you look at it objectively, driving performance from an individual basis is not as effective as through a larger group. The other benefits include risk mitigation in terms of resource and skill dependancy.

  5. […] previous posts on corporate KM and ROI on KM are an indication of my thoughts on this subject. As those of you who practice KM in […]

  6. […] a previous post of mine i’ve tried to address the issue of why knowledge sharing is so different in the corporate world. However, there have been many instances where these hurdles have been overcome. Only when there […]

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