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Why Won’t People Share Knowledge, and What Can You do About It?

Posted by Stan Garfield on 11/7/2017
Stan Garfield
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share-hs.jpgTo change a culture from one of knowledge hoarding to one of knowledge sharing, we must first understand why people may not be sharing their knowledge with one another. Below are some of the main reasons—along with recommended solutions—drawn from my new book, Proven Practices for Promoting Knowledge Management.

In my career as a knowledge manager in many settings, I’ve identified 16 common reasons why people don’t share what they know. In this post I’ll share six of them, along with proven solutions—you can find the others in my latest book, published by Lucidea Press.

  • They don’t have time. They think they have no time for knowledge sharing.

    Solution: Embed knowledge-sharing into the basic work and processes of your organization so that it is not viewed as a separate task that can be avoided.

  • They don’t trust others. They are worried that sharing their knowledge will allow other people to be rewarded without giving credit or something in return, or will result in the misuse of that knowledge.

    Solution: Reward people on team goals, and nurture communities within the organization to create an environment of trust.

  • They think that knowledge is power. They hoard their knowledge waiting for someone to beg them for it, treat them like a guru, or give them something in return.

    Solution: Recognize, reward, and promote those who share their knowledge, while denying promotions to those who fail to do so.

  • They don’t know why they should do it. They don’t think they need to spend time on knowledge sharing. Leadership has not made a strong case for knowledge sharing.

    Solution: Set specific knowledge-sharing goals for employees and communicate them repeatedly through many different channels. Have the senior executives communicate regularly on knowledge-sharing expectations, goals, and rewards.

  • There is no positive consequence to them for doing it. They receive no rewards, recognition, promotions, or other benefits for sharing knowledge.

    Solution: Implement rewards and recognition programs for those who share their knowledge. For example, award points to those who share knowledge, and then give desirable rewards to those with the top point totals.

  • They think they are doing it. They are sharing knowledge differently than the recommended ways (e.g., sending email to trusted colleagues or distribution lists).

    Solution: Assign people to work with each community and organization to show them how to use the recommended ways and how/why they work better than other ways. Providing a new tool or process that is viewed as a killer application—it quickly and widely catches on—is the best way for the old ways to be replaced with new ways.

Lucidea Press has published my latest book, Proven Practices for Promoting a Knowledge Management Program, which includes additional information on getting people to share knowledge, and much more. I hope you will find the book compelling and relevant, with useful advice and insights drawn from my career as a KM practitioner.


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Topics: Knowledge Management, Proven Practices