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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Why Knowledge Sharing

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Why Knowledge Sharing
Why Employees Either Hide or Share

As we move closer to the time when nearly 64 million U.S. workers (boomers-representing 40% of the U. S. workforce), savvy employers will put more emphasis on the knowledge it requires of workers, and require that workers be open to sharing their business knowledge within their corporate communities. Here we briefly examine the new knowledge worker and why workers either hide or share knowledge.

The New Knowledge Worker

It was only 25 years ago that a majority of the workforce in the United States was comprised of industrial workers. Management practice was steeped in Taylorism, the management science based on the work of Frederick Winslow Taylor. In the latter part of the 19th century, his time and motion studies turned management into a science. At that time, unskilled labor comprised 90 percent of the workforce at the turn of the previous century; in the 21st century, that figure is closer to 20 percent. Today, a plurality of the workforce is comprised of knowledge workers-yet management still clings to its Tayloristic roots. Incredibly, that is even the case in many organizations that were never industrial to begin with, such as financial services firms and professional services firms.

Thanks to today's collaboration and knowledge sharing tools, a knowledge worker--without leaving his chair--can send e-mail halfway across the globe, attend an online meeting while on an aircraft, and search a database containing millions of documents without leaving their home.

This represents significant progress over the time when the term "cc" literally meant to send a carbon copy of a letter typed on an IBM Selectric, and is nothing less than a sea change that has caught most managers unaware.

The New Knowledge Economy

The challenge facing vendors of knowledge sharing and collaboration tools (a $60 billion market in the aggregate) is in helping their customers move from an industrial age mindset to a knowledge economy mindset. It's actually not a challenge, it's an imperative.

What if a factory owner were to update all his production tools, but continue to manage as if the old ones were still present? Unlikely, illogical, unproductive--those terms all come to mind. What if it were not just one factory, but companies with as many as 56 million employees in the aggregate? Such is the challenge of managing in the knowledge economy where, in the past 10 years, the vast majority of the tools used by knowledge workers have been replaced. The only problem is we practice management as if our old tools were still in place.

As a result, the situation in many companies today is similar to automating a bad manual process; you get the same problems but they occur at a faster rate. Perhaps we have, along the way, forgotten what management actually is. Management is the process of leading and directing all or part of an organization, often a business, through the deployment and manipulation of resources. In the knowledge economy, the majority of resources are human.

Outdated Management Practices Limit Progress

Outdated management practices have become a huge headache for tens of thousands of businesses. They also present a challenge to vendors of knowledge sharing and collaboration tools, because it means that their customers are largely using those tools with an industrial-age mindset.

A robust leadership development (LD) program will ensure the next generation of workers in your organization is prepared and ready to move-up just when the company needs them most. Now is the time to build your (LD) program. And don't forget that a great part of a robust leadership development program is to ensure an environment where knowledge is revered and shared, not hoarded and hide. Take a close look and study the four reasons why employees hide knowledge (listed below). Your mission is to turn this around.

If the majority of resources in the knowledge economy are human, (and businesses now operate in this new knowledge economy), then their approach to management has to shift--in the way it manages its most precious resource--humans.

Six Reasons for Knowledge Loss

The BP Oil knowledge management (KM) study lists six reasons for knowledge loss within an organization:

1. Employees leaving for a better position.

2. Employees being promoted.

3. Employees relocating.

4. Company or organizational downsizing.

5. Temporary workers leaving the company.

6. Employees who are retiring.

All of these reasons call for a community where this knowledge can be
shared before these workers depart.

Four Reasons Employee Hide Knowledge

Professor David Zweig, University of Toronto, Susan Brodt of Queens University, and several colleagues have been studying why people are reluctant to share their knowledge. These researchers found that people with critical knowledge often protect it as if it were their own property, and they will engage in behaviors to hide knowledge from others. Zweig concluded that if organizations want to promote knowledge sharing (and it's certainly in their best interests to do so), they need to enhance the workplace climate and make knowledge sharing and collaboration a norm in the workplace. Zweig identified four reasons employees engage in knowledge hiding:

1. Employees believe an injustice has been done to them and are distrustful of management.

2. Employees are afraid of negative performance evaluations.

3. It festers in the organizational culture (a culture of not sharing and being secretive).

4. Employees believe hanging on to their job knowledge gives them a sense of power and importance because they have specific information that no one else has.

The One Reason Employees Share Knowledge

Conversely, research found the prime reason for sharing one's knowledge is to trade it for other knowledge or unspoken future obligations. To this, organizations have to create an environment which allows workers to freely share and disseminate their work knowledge.

[1] Cubie King, http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Cubie_King

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