Why do people share?
Nancy Dixon has a great post (at a new location) on The Incentive Question or Why People Share Knowledge - mostly it's about the Why end of this title.
The trouble with incentives is that that discussion usually focuses on the wrong thing. It's not really "how do I get people to share more?" because they already do. The question is really about creating incentives for people to use the "system" that has been developed to encourage knowledge sharing. I think this is where people fall short. They convert "not using the system" to "not sharing knowledge," and then they ask their colleagues and consultants how to get people to share more knowledge.
My take: if they aren't using the system, then the system doesn't fit with the way that people share knowledge. And how does the knowledge sharing happen? It happens between people. And that is the focus of Nancy's article. We don't need incentives to share with one another. We need relationships, as Nancy summarizes (emphasis mine):
Because our knowledge is so closely tied to our identity, it's very important to each of us that our peers view us as knowledgeable and skillful. One of the major ways we demonstrate that to our peers is by sharing our knowledge with them. But sharing knowledge is risky, the other person may make a cutting remark about it or indicate that it's not worth listening to. And sharing knowledge is time consuming, because to really respond to another's question or problem takes the time to understand the issue and to explain in sufficient depth. So we rightly place conditions around sharing our in-depth knowledge. The relationships we build with others provide a needed level of confidence that our knowledge will be treated with respect. Knowledge sharing and relationship are coupled.
Rather than management asking, How do we incentivise people to share their knowledge? It would be more useful for management to ask, How do we develop relationships across the organization that will set in motion more knowledge sharing?
Of course, this discussion reminds me of David Snowden's oft-repeated lines about Rendering Knowledge. Specifically, "In the context of real need, few people will withhold their knowledge."
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