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

Response to Hayim Herring

Originally published: Tuesday, May 07, 2013
My comment to a wonderful EJewishphilanthropy post by Rabbi Hayim Herring.
Thank you for this wonderful piece on the timely and important topic of networks. I particularly like this phrasing “They rely on influence and not control, connections and not command.” I want to build on your piece and ask the question how do networks integrate with organizations, or put another way, how do networks integrate with hierarchies?
The reason I find this question interesting and relevant is that at this point in the life of the Jewish community the building blocks of our community are organizations (note it need not be in the future – see the example of Berkana that reorganized itself out of an organizational structure).
How do organizations integrate network thinking, values and structures? In my recent experience, I see a few organizations going the mile and leading the path to become networked non-profits, hybrids of sorts. And a challenge I note in the integration is the lack of clarity of how networked and how hierarchical and where the boundaries are. I think that as networked thinking penetrates an organization, a fear — or a wish — sets in that everything is now networked and flat and resentment and demoralization can set in about existing hierarchical features of the organization. In order to avoid this problem (and I may be pushing the envelope beyond where most organizations are), I encourage leadership that is moving in this direction to be thoughtful about setting expectations and trying to be clear about where the boundaries and limits of network and the hierarchy exist. It is messy and evolving but I think it gets beyond the all or nothing thinking that can paralyze those who want to take the risk and bite those who are out in front. We are living in interesting times and need to figure this out together. Thank you for continuing the dialogue.

Why Do So Many Online Communities Fail?

Originally Posted: Thursday, May 02, 2013
The good news is that technology has created unprecedented opportunities for people to meet like-minded peers to learn, collaborate and support each other. The bad news is that so many of these well-meaning and inspiring projects that have enormous potential to help people and strengthen causes are failing. Not just in the Jewish community, throughout the nonprofit world, hundreds of thousands of dollars (at least) have been spent over the past decade on designing systems that ended up not being utilized. I don’t mean to point a finger – my guess is most of us have participated in, dreamed of, sponsored, or funded one of these projects. And there is no simple answer to explain what went wrong. What I would like to present today is a way of thinking that in my experience has helped communities succeed.

The idea is that when we focus on building a technology infrastructure, we often neglect to build an accompanying relationship infrastructure. The word community can be defined as “a group of people with a common background or with shared interests within society.” Those interests may be shared geography, affiliation, values, purpose, enemies or problems.

When you bring a group of strangers or acquaintances together for a gathering, a party, you don’t expect them to suddenly bond, reveal their secrets or foibles, or become best friends. So why do we expect that if we build a website or community platform which is even more remote than an in person gathering, people will jump in and participate? An online space has fewer social clues such as age, clothing, body language or accent than a face-to-face gathering. When we go online the only social clues we usually get are an email address or name, and if we are lucky a small image of the person. We all know how resistant we are to completing the profile section of online social platforms, even though it would help a lot.

So what would you do if you were a host or hostess at a cocktail party? You would circulate and get to know people, introduce people to each other that have shared interests, maybe set up some games or some interesting conversation pieces. You might encourage a few of the more gregarious folks to help make people feel comfortable. There might be some people you would not invite because they cause trouble.

In order to make online communities successful, we need to pay attention to the relationships, not just the technology infrastructure. We need to help people find each other and connect around shared interests.

What does relationship infrastructure consist of? Roles, protocols, norms, expectations, motivations, mission and purpose and other social structures. (Think about Daniel Pink’s work on motivation.) Note I said motivation – not incentives – research has demonstrated that incentives are only good for simple tasks not for complex knowledge based tasks. So let me be concrete about what relationship infrastructure looks like:

This past week I was working with the National Consortium of Deaf-Blindness – they are just finishing up a platform for a national community of practice that includes a representative from 50 states. They want to introduce the platform to their 20 staff members. We talked about the usual approach – a technology training – letting staff get on the site and press buttons. The focus was on technology. Then we asked ourselves, how can we do this in a way that develops relationships – both relationships between people and relationships to the mission of the organization? We came up with the following protocol.

      • We paired people up – intentionally thinking about who might benefit from doing this work together – make sure someone who is technology averse is paired with someone who is technologically comfortable. Maybe pair people who work on the same team? Or maybe pair people across teams?
      • We sent them into the platform with an assignment. While they are in the site and “kick the tires” we helped them imagine what it would be like driving the car. We gave them some guiding questions to think about.
      • Name 3 ways this platform can help you forward your mission.
      • Name 2 technology improvements you would like to see for this platform.
      • Name 1 surprise from this experience.
      • We asked everyone to post these responses in the site so that others can see how their peers respond to the experience. (Thereby giving them another opportunity to get to know others – by reading their responses.)

Relationship infrastructures have to be carefully matched to the culture of the community, stage of development of the community (how well do people know each other) and many other factors. Just like technology may need to be revisited and upgraded, the relationship infrastructure needs to be revisited and changed as the community changes.

So next time you think about designing a technology platform for a community – don’t forget to take the time and effort and get the expertise you need to build the accompanying relationship infrastructure that will ensure the success of your investment.

Naava Frank, EdD, is a consultant and researcher focused on the impact of communities of practice and networks. She can be reached at naavafrank1@gmail or

Cross posted from EJewishPhilanthropy May 2, 2013  check out the comments section of  this blog post on EJewishphilanthropy for some interesting follow up comments.

How to Give Effective Feedback Both Positive and Negative

Originally Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013

The nuanced distinction in the article below between feedback for young people and feedback for senior people is important.  I like when the complexity of an issue is presented and this article does that.  It also validates my own experience.

At the goodbye party held for me at YU School Partnership I was touched and surprised by the ways that younger staff in the office articulated the positive impact my encouragement had on them.  They reported things like I had pushed them out of their comfort zone, helped them gain confidence and find their voice.

I learned a great deal from the feedback I received from Dr. Scott Goldberg my supervisor at YU School Partnership and Jane Taubenfeld Cohen my wise colleague.

Hope others find this useful as well.

Thank you to Kerri Kervatsi and Hildy Gottleib for bringing this to my attention.

How to Give Effective Feedback, Both Positive and Negative  By ALINA TUGEND

67% find company training/e-learning of little or no value – according to the Learning in the Workplace 2013 survey results.

“I’ve aggregated the Very Important and Essential scores and  highlighted in blue the top 5 rated ways of learning in the workplace. This shows …

  1. that company training/e-learning is the lowest rated way to learn at work , and
  2. that workers find other (self-organised and self-managed) ways of learning at work far more valuable – with team collaboration being the highest rated.”

“Nevertheless as a whole, these survey results are yet another piece of evidence that show how workers are continuing to organise and manage their own learning in many different ways –  and in doing so are bypassing the L&D Department. What’s more a comparison with the 2012 Learning in the Workplace survey results shows that this is a continuing trend.”

How are you organizing learning in your workplace?

source:  Learning in the Social Workplace: Jane Hart’s Blog

#1: A famous example of a community of practice within an organization is that which developed around the Xerox customer service representatives who repaired the machines in the field (Brown & Duguid 2000). The Xerox reps began exchanging tips and tricks over informal meetings over breakfast or lunch and eventually Xerox saw the value of these interactions and created the Eureka project to allow these interactions to be shared across the global network of representatives. The Eureka database has been estimated to have saved the corporation $100 million. source: Wikipedia article on Etienne Wenger

Client Journal – The ‘aha’ moment

Originally written: Thursday, April 18, 2013
An exciting session with clients today.

My work is helping people who are accustomed to working in a hierarchical way to make room in their repertoire for working in a networked way.  They are embedded in a hierarchy but when they want to work on engaging their constituents, they need to shift their thinking – and it’s hard – it takes time and conversation and dialogue because it’s so far away from their experience of what it possible.

I need to say things like “what would happen if we tried it this way.”  It’s soo exciting when that ‘aha’ happens like it did today!

We were talking about how to get staff onto the new web-platform.  And our introductory buddy system visit (see blog post ) worked well so we had leaders identified who were ready to go.

My clients wanted to go back to planning mode, which is their comfort zone, get teams ready to go into the platform as a group — like the marines – no man left behind – and I said: “what about if we just let the people who are ready start now.”  The teams can reflect on and organize themselves after we have some action and facts on the ground in two weeks from now.

A light bulb went off — all of a sudden they did not have to carry their team members on their back into the platform — it was every man and woman for themselves.  It was exhilarating.

Also a little scary.  But I reassured them the order and structure emerge from the activities of the individuals. Instead of hierarchical control – we have other means of control – like peer pressure, norms, policies, taxonomies, technology structures.

It takes practice and reinforcement to keep the light bulb lit – but I know over time it will become second nature. And then my job is done.

At least until the community moves into another phase of its development.

A Family Engagement Community of Practice: A Case Study of a Collaboration Model

Monday, April 15, 2013 – By Naava Frank and Lara Nicolson
JCSA Journal of Communal Service, March 2013

How can you take a group of local federated agencies working in a similar fi eld— some competing, some working in synergy, some unaware of the others’ existence—and bring them together to have a profound impact on a critical sector of the Jewish community? This article tells the story of 12 months in the life of a Community of Practice (CoP) that shaped a collaborative culture among seven agencies of THE ASSOCIATED: Associated Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and led to a shared grant for a project maximizing the impact of their work with Jewish families with young children. This article shares the successes, challenges, and learning from the perspective of the community facilitators and members. We hope that it will help other Jewish organizations use the CoP model of collaboration to strengthen professional networks. Although work with human systems may not always be replicable, the CoP model described here can be adapted with thoughtful consideration to differences in context.

JCSA Journal – Family Engagement CoP

Launching HaReshet at AVI CHAI: Pilot Program in Jewish Network-Weaving

Posted on January 8, 2013  – Written by Deborah Fishman for

A year ago, I set out on a journey to understand how Jewish professionals are acting as network-weavers. I started by interviewing trailblazers who are activating their organizations’ constituencies towards common goals. I met community organizers advocating for causes from new educational models to environmental consciousness in the Jewish community. I encountered group facilitators sparking conversation on best practices in using technology in day schools and growing vibrant synagogues. I spoke with those engaging alumni, young Jews, and other target populations to become active, lifelong Jewish learners. Some of these interviews were featured here on eJewishPhilanthropy. These conversations led me to realize that Jewish professionals working with networks in a diversity of settings would benefit tremendously from resources on network-weaving within and beyond a Jewish context – including one another. I first wrote here about the idea of providing this through a training program for network-weavers.
In my role as Director of Communications for The AVI CHAI Foundation, I am creating a laboratory for experimentation around how network-weaving can be applied to improve the effectiveness of Jewish organizations in engaging their constituencies. From November 2012 to August 2013, in HaReshet (“The Network”), a pilot group of AVI CHAI grantees are learning together about network-weaving; developing and practicing skills in a guided and reflective way; and benefiting from sharing lessons with one another along the journey.
Grantees were selected for this pilot program based on two criteria. First, they see the value of their organizations as networks working toward a particular goal. Second, someone is currently on staff with time allocated to work with this network and help it achieve its potential. These criteria match the intention of HaReshet to help expedite the work of organizations who will regardless be exploring the frontier of building networks this year. I am truly excited to be working with the following participants:

  • Frayda Goshor-Cohen and Luba Yusim from the Consortium of Applied Jewish Studies in Jewish Education, managed by Rosov Consulting: Connecting researchers, practitioners and philanthropists in the field of Jewish education;
  • Gary Hartstein from DigitalJLearning, a project of the Jewish Education Project: Networking Jewish day schools which are implementing online and blended learning;
  • Jane Cohen from Day School Leadership Training Institute of the Davidson Graduate School of Education at JTS: Activating the alumni network of graduates of the DSLTI professional development program, which trains and supports heads of Jewish day schools;
  • Debbie Feinstein and Yael Bailey from the Jewish New Teacher’s Project (JNTP), a project of the New Teacher Center: Creating a network of alumni of its programs, which accelerate the effectiveness of beginning teachers in Jewish day schools;
  • Rebecca Braverman of Reshet Ramah of the National Ramah Commission; Creating a network of Ramah alumni; and
  • Miriam Cohen and Drorit Farkas of TaLAM: Creating a network of teachers using the TaL AM curriculum of Hebrew Language Arts and Jewish Studies.

HaReshet brings alive a vision of how network-weaving is not just new content to be learned. Rather, it is a mindset and approach, which the program itself embodies. Instead of top-down lectures, blended in-person and online webinars accommodating participants both within and beyond New York City enable the interactive discussion of network concepts. Instead of passive learning, participants are required to actively apply the material through exercises between the monthly webinars.
Also critical to network-weaving is the belief that learning is not unidirectional. As the Jewish chevruta model recognizes, there is tremendous value in learning – and in learning together. This concept is particularly relevant to the emerging field of network-weaving, where some may have more experience in working with networks, but we all stand to learn from one another. In HaReshet, each participant is paired with a chevruta partner experienced in network-weaving who will coach him or her to achieve specific personal and professional goals. Our esteemed chevruta partners are: Miriam Brosseau of The Jewish Education Project/ Darim Online (See3), Caren Levine of Etheoreal, Lisa Colton of Darim Online (See3), Liz Fisher of Birthright NEXT, Naava Frank of YU Institute for University-School Partnership, and Sara Shapiro-Plevan of Rimonim Consulting.
Ultimately, in a woven network, the discrete components add up to a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts. The AVI CHAI Foundation in North America invests in a wide range of initiatives that further Jewish literacy, religious purposefulness, and peoplehood/Israel at Jewish day schools and summer camps. While grantees are united around these three core values, they each represent a different path toward making them come to life. Given that AVI CHAI is sunsetting in 2020, it is especially important to the foundation to leave a legacy of strong organizations that can consciously articulate and promote the values to future generations. Part of this work may be to bring together grantees who perceive themselves as operating in very different contexts and helping them understand the ways in which they are working toward similar goals. HaReshet hopes to enable the individual participating networks to grow and each network-weaver to achieve greater confidence and mastery in acting in this role. It also may be one place where grantees can benefit not only from the value of the program, but also the value of access to one another. In doing so, they may begin to think about how they are a part of and can enhance a bigger picture.
At the same time, I have realized the deep importance not just of network-weaving as a concept, but of the individual network-weavers themselves. Their skills, personalities, and dedication greatly influence the ways their networks develop, and are in many cases what enables their networks to take off. I am privileged to work with and learn from so many passionate and talented network-weavers, and look forward to what we can achieve together.
Deborah Fishman is Director of Communications at The AVI CHAI Foundation.





How to Be A Network Weaver by Deborah Fishman and Naava Frank

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

See the article that Deborah and I wrote in the HaYidion Journal – P. 46.

The term “network weaver” occurs throughout this issue. This article provides a job description and suggestions for operational techniques for this newest of occupations. Along with tips for 5 practical tasks of a network weaver.

  1. Identify the strengths and gifts of those in your network
  2. Help people with common interests connect
  3. Encourage complex reciprocity
  4. The importance of diverse perspectives
  5. Grow more network weavers

PDF of Frank and Fishman Network Weaver

Happy Weaving!