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April 14, 2009


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Sreya Dutta

Hi Mike, very very valid point raised and I had similar questions in mind while I was equally thrilled to think of the implementation of social learning in my organization. What if someone quotes my information and gets appreciated for it and I don't get the credit? Why should I contribute if people here are closed to my ideas? a lot of what ifs do come up. But what I think we're missing here is a social learning model that the management needs to design for their organization based on their culture and goals.

To motivate people to share knowledge management needs to come up with ways to reward employees for their contribution.

Thanks for sharing this!


David L. Gilmour

Mike, your forthcoming document sounds interesting indeed. In serving as a CEO for more than a decade, I always felt it was my role to ensure the alignment between the organization's goals and the goals of individual employees using every tool at my disposal: setting the tone on culture, designing compensation systems, hiring people who were like minded, etc. When this is done well, and employees identify with the enterprise as a whole, they tend to be naturally responsive to others' requests - in your terminology, a kind of "soft" directed sharing.

I actually think that this is a better way to look at the problem than to equate information sharing with volunteerism, and ask for more of it in the culture. Knowledge Management got itself into trouble when it measured itself merely by how much it increased the amount of knowledge capture or sharing. That kind of soft ROI goal was easily attacked because they didn't tie back to business goals: from the CEO's perspective, sharing is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

The good news is that greater levels of sharing and collaboration can make an enormous contribution to reducing costs and increasing revenues. When that is fully internalized by an enterprise, you don't need to rely on volunteerism, because even highly competitive employees interested only in their own success will realize that giving and receiving information is the best way to succeed.

Thanks for raising this.


David L. Gilmour
Senior Vice President
Collaboration Technology
Oracle Corporation

Larry Irons


I read this post with a great deal of interest. In my opinion, much of the analysis given the topic of information sharing, especially by those considering E2.0, depends heavily on reciprocity and implicitly social capital to explain why employees initiate sharing to solve emergent problems rather than react to directions to share once a problem is officially recognized. I don't think this is volunteerism though. And in that sense I agree with David Gilmour.

However, I really do disagree with David's suggestion that the issue is solved by setting the tone on culture, designing compensation systems, and hiring people who are like minded. I'd suggest that approach gets any organization into groupthink territory over time.

What you are describing in this post strikes me as an example of the challenge faced by managers who understand the importance of producing organizational conditions conducive to gift giving. The influence of social psychology leads most social network analyses to focus on reciprocity as key to social capital. But a focus on reciprocity doesn't really provide much perspective on how to encourage employees to initiate information sharing without explicit direction.

I suggest that beneficence in relationships (giving something for nothing, with no obligation for a return) is how social capital gets started between two employees and reciprocity is what keeps social capital accumulating between those same employees. I actually did a chapter for a book a few years ago called “The Limits of Anytime, Anywhere Customer Support: Distributed Work and Home-Based Agents” laying out the point of view alluded to here.


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