Why Do I Share My Knowledge?
A couple of days ago, one of my favourite Enterprise 2.0 and Social Business thought leaders and blogger extraordinaire, Oscar Berg, put together a rather inspiring article that I thought would be worth while reflecting on, specially, since it is at the heart of not just social software, but also collaboration and knowledge management in general. Indeed, in “Why do people share?” he comes to reflect on perhaps one of the toughest challenges to answer for any knowledge worker out there: why do you share your knowledge across? Even more so when the vast majority of people just don’t share theirs out there openly and transparently in the first place. Not even a fraction. Why do we do it then? Or, even better, why don’t we do it?
Oscar points out a good number of reasons, with some rather interesting additional reading materials, as to why we are so inclined to share what we know with others without even asking for much in return: sharing as a gift, as a key motivator to increase our reputation, as we seek emotional communion, etc. etc. And while reading through the entire article, which I can certainly recommend, specially, the link to Nancy Dixon‘s superb entry on “The Incentive Question or Why People Share Knowledge“, I just couldn’t help thinking myself about my very own motivations to share my knowledge across out there, whether internally and externally, more than anything else as a self-reflection exercise trying to answer *why* do I do it and why do I keep doing it, and most, importantly, why can’t I conceive a business world where we couldn’t survive without sharing our knowledge across for others to benefit from it.
I can see Oscar’s points about sharing as a gift or to increase your reputation or as a method to seek that emotional communion. However, if I come to think about what drives me to share my knowledge out in the open over the last 15 years that I have been working in the corporate world, the motivators are sligthly different. To name:
Knowledge Sharing is the Learning, Learning is the Knowledge Sharing
Indeed, all along, and ever since I was first exposed to traditional Knowledge Management, over 5 months ago, it really hit me to think that perhaps one of the most profound key accelerators for one’s learning is that one of sharing your knowledge out there, in the open, and the more, the better, allowing others to benefit from it, contrasting it, challenging it, reframing it (What Harold Jarche has been talking about lately on Seek, Sense and Share, that another Jack Vinson, captured so nicely in a recent blog post under a very suggestive heading: “Seek-Sense-Share is iterative“), instead of seeing it stagnate, inside your brain, because you never give it an opportunity to let it grow through that enriching experience of knowledge exchanges with other knowledge workers.
To me, since we are all embarked on a lifetime learning experience of what we know, what’s around us, who we are, what we do and why we do it, who we connect with, etc. etc. knowledge sharing is innate to our human nature of wanting to connect and collaborate with others. We, human beings, are social beings, and as such have been bound to share what we know with others, so that our learning curve never becomes flat. On the contrary.
The interesting challenge though is how over the course of the last few decades we have been “educated” to reject such human nature and instead of sharing our knowledge not only for our very own benefit, but that of others, we have been taught how we need to protect it, to hoard it from others, because “knowledge is power” and if we release our knowledge, we release our power, when we all know it’s rather the opposite: knowledge SHARED is power. Thank goodness for social networking tools we are now, finally, starting to realise about the damage that unnatural behaviour of not sharing our knowledge across has done to the corporate world, academia and our societies in general. It’s just like we are finally breaking free from that “information is power” yoke to fully comprehend we cannot longer neglect, nor ignore, what we were born to live by in the first place: share our knowledge openly. Share out stories.
Sharing is all about helping others
Indeed, this is perhaps one of the key motivators that plenty of people seem to have forgotten about all along. Pretty much along the lines of what Oscar mentioned about sharing as a gift, I keep telling folks that one of the most powerful things we can all do as humans is to eventually help other human beings when they are in need, and in order to do that we would need to start by sharing our knowledge and experiences, know-how, skills, lessons learned, etc. etc. In short, by sharing.
It’s all part of what Dave Snowden has been advocating all along as one of the main principles behind traditional Knowledge Management and which would still apply very much to Social Networking for Business today. In “Rendering knowledge“, to quote: “In the context of real need few people will withhold their knowledge“. Here is an example: no matter how busy you may well be, no matter how much, or how little, knowledge you may have about a particular topic, no matter whether you are new to an organisation or a seasoned knowledge worker, if a fellow colleague would be asking you for help, because they may feel you may be able to help them, it is going to be almost impossible for you to neglect providing that help in the shape of sharing your knowledge. We just do it. It’s in our nature. It’s part of that equation of trusting your peers, your networks, your communities, the folks around you, the ones whose personal business relationships you have been cultivating all along and for a reasonable amount of time. And once you have shared that piece of knowledge and helped your peer(s) there is nothing more gratifying than seeing them excel at what they are already good at. It’s that feeling of knowing you have done the right thing. It’s that feeling of fulfillment seeing how those folks around you keep succeeding, because you have taken the time to help them succeed. They succeed, you succeed. You succeed, they succeed.