People are more likely to share information if they know why

Companies know their performance depends more and more on their ability to use information. But information that’s not harnessed can’t be used.

There are two kinds of information : company generated information that’s harnessed (even if people within the organization don’t know where to find it), and employee generated information that remains informal and is only known from its owner and some few people around him, because it’s not harnessed at the organization scale.

Harnessing this informal information is one of enterprises 2.0’s purposes. As said in this Gartner’s post, this kind of information exists and is available as flows, contrary to what people used to know, that is more about stocks. That’s quite destabilizing because the liquidity of this information, the fact it’s owned by employees, and the fact that employees share it and make it available for the whole organization only if they want is the exact opposite of everything that’s been known till then.

Then, as the author mentions, organizations have to find what makes people participate and share their own expertise, because it doesn’t happen easily even when companies try to make it easy. Maybe the corporate culture, or the fact people try to protect themselves in a professional context can explain that. But that’s not all.

People are subjects to many entreaties and have to arbitrate under the constraint of a limited ressource : time. Then everything becomes a matter of priorities and people will prefer what’s more useful for therm. Even of the hierarchy of priorities is different, depending on people, the key factors stay the same : what my manager want me to do (mostly if it makes sense), what serves me (even if it serves the organization, an individual benefit has to be found), what I’m assessed on, what determines my bonys, what makes sense for me…

This is also the conclusion of this Bain survey. KM tools fails to meet expectations because they neglect the people behind the screen…

One driver can be personal visibility, self marketing. I don’t know if we often over estimate it, but it counts. But visibility is not possible until participatoin is valued. Anyway, if participation is really valued, even people who are not looking for visibility will play the game : if it’s useful for my company I have to do it even if I’m not likely to market myself.

So it’s essential, If we want people to play the game, to know what those flows will be used for, even before trying to harness them. If we know which use willbe made of all this informal capital, it will be easier for companies to turn it into valuable assets, so to value participation, so to help people understand what’s their role and why their participation is essential.

KM failed because people can’t see the purpose and don’t see any personal interest. KM 2.0 can change it, if organization reminds information sharing is not a matter of technology but a matter of people.

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Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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