Barriers and Benefits to Knowledge Sharing

Originally posted: Tuesday, October 22, 2013
There are many natural barriers to people and organizations sharing knowledge.
  • Failure to appreciate the value of sharing knowledge.
  • Lack of understanding how to effectively share knowledge.
  • There are no incentives or rewards (material or psychic) for knowledge sharing.
  • People are busy and even with the best of intentions don’t develop a habit of knowledge sharing.
  • Professionals are afraid to reveal they do not know something; they do not want to take risks or be shown wrong because they would feel embarrassed.
  • Concern that sharing knowledge will reduce one’s own value, prestige or recognition. Competition — real or perceived — for limited resources decreases motivation and safety for sharing.
  • Perceived benefits of knowledge hoarding: makes people feel secure, safe or powerful; people hope to benefit (dollars, power, and credibility) from having exclusive access to knowledge.
  • Lack of clarity on issues of confidentiality can lead to either withholding information that can be helpful or sharing it inappropriately.

Benefits to sharing knowledge include:

  • Enhancement of effectiveness and efficiency by spreading good ideas and practices.
  • Cost effectiveness – knowledge is developed and then re-used by many people.
  • Time savings – Professionals learn from their mistakes and those of others.
  • Emotional relief and decreased tension are experienced when problems are shared.
  • Bonds and connections between professionals are strengthened; solving problems brings people together.
  • More sophisticated ideas, insights and information sources are applied to problems resulting in better solutions.
  • Innovation and discovery increase as does: excitement, engagement and motivation.
  • A feeling of satisfaction from sharing knowledge, much like giving charity, results from making a contribution to society.
  • Respectful ways of using knowledge – with attribution and permission — benefit the person who generates the knowledge and the person who shares it.

People who have a positive experience of knowledge sharing typically wish to continue to invest in knowledge sharing activities.

Good Habits of Knowledge Sharing

“Whoever repeats a statement in the name of the one who said it brings redemption to the world.” (Avot 6:6)

Commentary: The sages deemed it so imperative that credit should be given for another’s ideas that they identified the act as a cause for redemption, both communal and personal (Midrash Shmuel).

Thank you to Michael Miloff and Ilene Vogelstein for their contributions to this document.

Distributed by Naava Frank & Associates/ Knowledge Communities

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