Re: Knowledge sharing culture #culture #trust #collaboration

Tim Powell

Responding to many interesting comments here, and in particular to Stephen’s remarks highlighted below, which I find spot-on.


I always ask my clients, Are you 100% assured that you’re in a knowledge-friendly organization — and that this won’t change under the stress of, say, an economic downturn?  Unless you are, I generally counsel against using the term “knowledge sharing,” especially among executives — who may see it as naive, unrealistically idealistic, socialistic, or a security risk — or some combination — often without verbalizing this (or even acknowledging it to themselves.)


“Knowledge sharing” is one of several common KM terms whose professional utility I question in my latest book. I recommend using the more neutral terms of knowledge “transfer,” “distribution,” or “transmission.” My own preference is for the less-jargony, community-flavored “communication.”


Semantics and optics aside, all knowledge tactics are powerful and should be applied carefully and consciously — much like the side effects of a strong drug (as you imply, Stephen).  Specifically, the benefits and the costs should be evaluated and balanced.  Yes, greater “knowledge sharing” can *under the right conditions* lead to greater collaboration, which can in turn improve organizational efficiency and effectiveness.  On the other hand, it can increase time drains, cause “knowledge overload,” lead to overly-cautious “consensus addiction,” slow decision making, blur lines of authority and accountability, and other not-so-good outcomes. 


It’s important to make these implicit costs known, along with the benefits.  This calibrates the expectations of your sponsors and users appropriately, and helps you monitor the tangible effects — both wanted and unwanted — of implementation.





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From: <> on behalf of Stephen Bounds <km@...>
Reply-To: "" <>
Date: Saturday, March 6, 2021 at 6:51 PM
To: "" <>
Subject: Re: [SIKM] Knowledge sharing culture #culture


Hi Peter,

Very well said, but I think we need to be careful not to make the prescription of things like "collaborative culture" a dogma. For example per Snowden and Cynefin, a focus on collaborative culture would be incorrect in a crisis environment.

The last time KM sparked broad interest in the 1990s, it failed to catch on in large part because the consultant-led model promoted certain behaviours regardless of the nature of the organisation being targeted.

The uncritical application of the same KM "solutions" in a wide range of contexts often led to mediocre outcomes that would limp along for a few years and then be quietly axed due to no-one being able to point to concrete benefits.

For KM to regain its standing as a critically-accepted discipline, we have to be rigorous about this. Any calls to adopt a KM initiative needs to have an explicit theory of change backing it and most importantly, indications and contraindications for its use. Otherwise we're just going to repeat the same mistakes of the past.


Stephen Bounds
Executive, Information Management
E: stephen.bounds@...
M: 0401 829 096

On 6/03/2021 6:41 am, Peter-Anthony Glick via wrote:

Thank you Stan for alerting me of this discussion on my favourite topic, and for reconnecting me with the SIKM group! Last time I engaged with all of you could be 10yrs ago!
Firstly, you will find here my latest article which prompted Stan to inform me of this thread:

Stacie, I read the responses you got so far and agree with most of them.  Nirmala and Patrick are right in highlighting the importance of culture.   In fact, to me this is the key to success for knowledge sharing to truly permeates an entire organisation and for the relevant behaviours to stick for the long term.
As Stephen alludes to, it should not be about knowledge sharing for knowledge sharing sake.  People will naturally share their knowledge if the working environment makes it the "right" thing to do.  And I not only mean right for the organisation, but right for the individuals first! 
Since my early years engaging with this group, I have evolved my thinking on this and realise that focusing on knowledge processes was missing the big picture.  What we (KMers) should focus on instead is on how to establish a collaborative culture.  With such a culture, knowledge sharing becomes the way to do business.   As Matt writes, collaborating becomes an integral part of your job.
In a truly collaborative culture, all the levers you have already mentioned in this thread (Abbe gives a good list) will be common place.  I would point out that Rewards & Recognition for collaborative behaviours should be part of the normal performance assessment.  I don't believe at all in separate gamification systems such as the one you mention Abbe.  A collaborative culture starts at the recruitment stage with job descriptions stipulating the desired behaviours and mindset.  Then, everyone is expected to embrace the collaborative mindset to be successful, including pay rises and promotions.  
I have been with bp since 2011 and have displayed collaborative behaviours continuously but was never rewarded and rarely recognised for it.  I carried on because it is in my nature but most are not like me! Bp has embarked on a digital transformation last year and has finally appointed someone to lead a culture transformation as well.  The right culture will not happen overnight however.
Stacie, an idea from me: For an organisation wanting to see knowledge sharing become natural for everyone, its leaders need to realise the need for a collaborative culture and consider this as a strategic objective.  It then needs to appoint a senior leader to lead the cultural transformation. 

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