Sharing is natural, let it be, oh let it be

September 21, 2008

I’ve absented myself from the ActKM forum for a period, in part because repeating past exchanges with what I call the Poppernerians gets boring after a while but also as a lot of the time I used to spend on listservs is going on active editing of the Wikipedia. I know I owe a response on questions to do with Spiral Dynamics (up there with NLP as a pseudo-science) but that will take a bit of time. However a chance meeting with Stacy Land in the bar of the San Jose Hilton this lunch time, coupled with travel planning for the ActKM conference next month triggered a read rather than a delete response to the latest posting. The question which arose was the classic KM question: How do we get people to share what they know.

My general response to people who ask the question How do we get people to share what they know, is If you have to ask the question then you have probably taken the wrong approach. In my experience people generally do want to share, but they may not want to share in the manner prescribed by the corporate KM department. If you ask someone for assistance in the context of real and immediate need it will rarely be refused. As someone to share knowledge in the absence of that need, or in a form or manner determined by a centralised function then it will nearly always be refused.

Sharing needs to be linked to tools that support the way in which humans have evolved to share knowledge, not the way that IT departments have designed most current systems. They also need to be linked to common perceived need. Look at the success of blogging between platoon commanders in Iraq compared with formal distribution of doctrine if you want a good example.

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The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

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