Knowledge Sharing

Description Knowledge sharing is a mostly voluntary exchange of information, skills, or expertise across an organization. Knowledge sharing is often synonymous with knowledge management systems, with the acknowledgment that many other factors are important to the sharing of knowledge, such as culture, trust, and incentives. See Knowledge is Power+. If knowledge is an asset (intangible) then this asset must be made available to all employees so they can be the most effective in their work.

Knowledge sharing as a corporate value is not compatible with World Class R&D. We do not share knowledge for the sake of sharing. Sharing is not found within any of the selected behavior fundamentals+. Individuals promoting knowledge sharing usually have a vested interest in you sharing your knowledge, either because they sell the means to promote sharing (i.e., computer systems) or they themselves gain a personal advantage in having access to your knowledge (e.g., knowledge vendors). The bias from these vested interests should make all of us more cautious of any benefits being touted for knowledge sharing.

Knowledge sharing suffers from the unspoken assumption that all knowledge is equal, whereas in fact it is often a very obscure nugget of information that is critical to a commercial effort. For example, in early days of microchips it was the knowledge needed to use copper interconnects between layers of processors that was key, and IBM let this knowledge slip inadvertently in a knowledge sharing consortium. Competitors were able to shave years in their efforts to catch up with IBM.

Knowledge sharing as an activity also suffers from its disregard of the fact that competitive advantage often comes from implicit knowledge+: knowledge that can only with great difficulty be codified, and implicit knowledge once codified is typically only intelligible to those involved in the act of codification. Individuals working together on a daily basis share this implicit knowledge. They 'instinctively' know which paths to pursue and which to avoid. Knowledge sharing typically assumes a central repository or traffic cop for knowledge. The really valuable knowledge for World Class R&D is often found in a wink, a nod or a grimace.

Appropriate Uses The activity of knowledge sharing can be useful for very tactical activities: how to fine-tune a flow cytometer. Knowledge sharing systems can be retooled to support protection of Intellectual Property and Firewalls. Knowledge sharing as a community activity, consortia and symposiums, is great for sharing public domain knowledge with stage one researchers+. Finally, knowledge sharing as a tit-for-tat activity is valuable for increasing R&D effectiveness: trading of valuable proprietary information in a way that each side gains an advantage. This last activity is at a very personal level, does not involve intermediaries or advanced technologies, and is probably not properly classified as a knowledge sharing activity.


Further Reading