Barriers to Knowledge Sharing: The Biggest One Isn't Systems

David Zweig, a Professor at the University of Toronto, commented on the problem of focusing on building knowledge sharing systems rather than focusing on the human barriers to knowledge sharing:

Puzzled as to why some companies were having trouble getting employees to share ideas and tips, the University of Toronto business professor talked to corporate managers and found something in common: they were focused on systems rather than people.

In a research paper he co-authored, Zweig argues that workplaces focus on developing software and therefore do a less-than-stellar job of identifying the barriers to knowledge sharing.

“It really was a case of, if you build it, they will come — but they weren’t coming,” Zweig said.

Welcome to world of “knowledge hiding,” where workers become evasive, play dumb or call a report confidential — even if it isn’t — whenever they are asked for information from a colleague. The findings will be published in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Organizational Behavior.

A couple of the human reasons cited in the research:
– The person being asked for the information distrusts what the asking party will do with the information; or
– the company has done a poor job of promoting inter-office sharing.

The paper suggested that companies can overcome knowledge hiding by having more direct contact and less email communication with employees, highlighting examples of trustworthiness, and avoiding “betrayal” incentives, such as rewards for salespeople who poach another’s clients.

Changing a workplace climate from a focus on the individual to a focus on the team should improve communication, Zweig said.”

My Comments
1. David’s findings are very similar to what I talk about the collaboration side. See my Intranets2011 keynote speech on “You’ve Got Collaboration Tools – Now What?” Here’s slide 44, which I thought of immediately when reading the above article.

2. I like the pro-offered strategies too – build trust in person (thereby make sharing personal), show examples of where it’s working and is delivering value, and get rid of organizational things (incentives) that stand in the way of not doing the “new right” things.

One thought on “Barriers to Knowledge Sharing: The Biggest One Isn't Systems

  1. Sorry, but I think that this is misleading – KM needs to focus on people-based systems; HR based systems that ‘manage’ the environment to encourage and develop KM-centric activities.
    Some of what I am talking about can be found in this blog post: http://theknowledgecore.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/for-kms-sake-get-the-people-factor-right/
    However, I do agree with the sentiment that organisations initially attempted to address KM processes via technology platforms…and, yes, in the main they appear to have failed.
    Look forward to the full article…
    David

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