Culture & Competency

Why Smart People are Reluctant to Share

In late 2009, Rajesh pondered why some smart people are reluctant to share, with the key insight being that “knowledge” becomes obvious to them, and (a) they think other people already have it, and (b) it becomes part of them (internalized) rather than something they can put into words.

Rajesh writes:

Smart people want to give their best and as they learn more, they learn that they need to learn a lot more before they start sharing. They learn some more and they learn they need to learn some more. What they forget is that most of the expertise that they already have is either becoming “obvious” to them or better yet, going into their “background thinking.”

Becoming obvious means that there is nothing special about it.

Becoming their background thinking means that they don’t even realize that it’s knowledge. It becomes part of them. For example think about alphabets and multiplication tables. It is in our background thinking and we don’t think about that as knowledge.

… and shows what he means with this graphic that plots level of expertise against time (awesome graphic, make sure you click through).

My Comments
1. It’s been a while since Rajesh wrote the above blog post, but it still rings true for me – in terms of what I’ve seen and experienced.

2. Take a read of my August 2008 column for Messaging News on “The Three Stages of Expertise Surfacing.” I see parallels between what Rajesh is writing about and my stage 3 – Discerned Expertise.

3. If you think someone knows something that “they’re not sharing,” ask them about it. Perhaps it’s become implicit and internalized knowledge for them, and your asking of the question will prompt them to think about a way to share it.

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