Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Case of Information Naivety

Never mind the responsibility/irresponsibility of hiding knowledge from your colleagues…  Here we are highlighting a special form of organizational/management naivety: Assuming that information sharing will just happen because the software that allows it is so cool, or because the utopian macroscopic benefits will outweigh the disadvantages perceived by individual cutthroats.

"We've had years of research in organizations about the benefits of knowledge-sharing but an important issue is the fact that people don't necessarily want to share their knowledge," says David Zweig, a professor of organizational behaviour and human resources management at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management and the University of Toronto at Scarborough.

"A lot of companies have jumped on the bandwagon of knowledge-sharing," such as spending money on developing knowledge-sharing software, says Prof. Zweig. "It was a case of, 'If you build it they will come.' But they didn't come."

The paper identifies three ways employees hide what they know from co-workers: being evasive, rationalized hiding -- such as saying a report is confidential -- and playing dumb.

Why do they do it? Two big predictors are basic distrust and a poor knowledge-sharing climate within the company. Companies may be able to overcome that through strategies such as more direct contact and less e-mail communication, highlighting examples of trustworthiness, and avoiding "betrayal" incentives, like rewards for salespeople who poach each other's clients.

Employees don't always share well with others, says new paper exposing 'knowledge hiding'

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