The other day I posted on, Participation is the currency of the knowledge economy.
The word “participation” can be interchanged for “social captial”, “conversation”, “contribution”, knowledge sharing”, but I chose “participation”, because “conversation” cannot happen without “participation.” And “participation” sounds more involved, sustained, or perpetual than “contribution” or “knowledge sharing.”
Anyway in that post I mentioned that the way companies currently operate is driven by each worker building their “intellectual captial” to get ahead, and to differentiate themselves. The more “intellectual capital” you have the more you are worth something or unique to the company. This kind of means workers compete with each other, or at least try to have unique power that will make them an asset to the firm. In this environment “knowledge sharing” would be the worst thing you could do, as you would be giving away your “edge”, giving away what makes you a unique asset to the company.
Of course we all know the “wisdom of crowds”, and an open and transparent participation model leads to ideas and conversation, which leads to discovery and collaboration. The act of sharing and finding saves others from re-inventing the wheel, saving money and project cycle-time.
A company that runs on a social captial model runs on the notion that “two minds are better than one”, so why not have a culture where these minds have open dialogue. In the end this opportunity for access to knowledge to help you with your work and to find new work brings the company closer to innnovation, and more honest client relationships.
No matter how simple the tools, and no matter even if people understand the benefits of “knowledge sharing” it just won’t happen if the company culture is about “intellectual captial” rather than “social capital.”
Organizations that depend on the creativity and innovations of their employees will not be as successful if they utilize knowledge hoarding when compared to those that have learning, collaborative communities.
The diffusion of innovations has been well studied. It is an outgrowth of human social networks. The rate at which information traverses the network will determine how rapidly a new idea gets accepted and used.
If certain people hoard information, they prevent this flow. In hierarchical companies, this hoarding can be useful to the hoarder, since they can position themselves as the node through which the information must flow. Knowledge is power.
In the highly networked world found in many companies today, however, this is more difficult. Preventing information flow along other routes becomes harder. The hoarder loses all power if someone else spreads the knowledge.
Just as the Internet routes around damage when a node goes down, so do well-connected human social networks route around knowledge hoarders, diminishing their power.
Companies that lessen the power of hoarders will have more rapid and successful diffusion of new ideas that can have huge impacts on the bottom line. Organizations that fail to deal with hoarders will not be as adaptive or as responsive to innovation. And, if the hoarder takes their information elsewhere, the organization is left with much less than it had before.