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Five Reasons People Don't Share

HR Magazine, May 2004​Here are the top five reasons people don't share knowledge and what to do about it, according to Carol Kinsey Goman, president of Kinsey Consulting Services, a human capital consulting firm in Berkeley, Calif. Quotes are taken from a survey she conducted.

  1. People believe knowledge is power.

    "If I know something you don't know, I have something over you."

    Solution: Change the reward system. Find ways to reinforce and reward knowledge sharing. Recognize and promote people who learn, teach and share. Penalize those who don't.

  2. People are insecure about the value of their knowledge.

    "I feel that people tend to underestimate life experience, that intellect has been so over praised, and for some people without a formal education, that it is hard for them to believe that they can add value in a very different way."

    Solution: Nurture a climate for collaboration by making people feel safe and valued while encouraging sharing of mistakes and lessons learned. Set clear expectations and clarify roles. Model openness, vulnerability and honesty.

  3. People don't trust each other.

    "I didn't know the other members of the team personally, so I didn't trust them."

    Solution: Create opportunities for people to meet and interact in formal and informal settings. Give them time to develop relationships, to evaluate each other's trustworthiness and to learn each other's strengths and weaknesses.

  4. Employees are afraid of negative consequences.

    "I was afraid that my idea would be ridiculed if it were slightly 'over the top,' rather than looked at as a useful brainstorming point."

    Solution: Eliminate barriers to a free flow of ideas. When people are free to ask "dumb" questions, challenge the status quo, and offer novel and even bizarre suggestions, knowledge sharing becomes a creative process.

  5. People work for other people who don't tell what they know.

    "Personally, I have had more problems with managers and decision makers withholding information than I have had with colleagues or team members."

    Solution: Make sure every employee has access to all aspects of your business, including finances, competitive products and services, and organizational strategy. Make an increased investment in education and personal development so employees know how to use data being shared.


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