Sharing knowledge as a source of personal power


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Presents a discussion about sharing knowledge as a source or personal power based on ABIPTI´s case study.

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Sharing knowledge as a source of personal power

  1. 1. Comunidadesdo Conhecimento Gestão de Prática Sharing knowledge as a source of personal power biblioteca Sharing knowledge as a source of personal power Presents a discussion about sharing knowledge as a source of personal power based on the ABIPTI´s case study José Cláudio C. Terra, Dr. Introduction Theoretical Foundation If knowledge is power, why should I share it? Authors and thinkers have predicted that, by Almost everyone has heard of or given some means of new levels and forms of networking, consideration to this question. As we we're beginning to see a rapid change in the embarked on a project that required role performed by large corporations and the researchers from across Brazil to share their emergence of a picture of how work should be precious personal knowledge, we decided to carried out in the 21st century1. The Internet is face this challenge head on. significantly increasing the importance of the The project was developed for The Brazilian concepts of clusters and integration among Research Institutions Trade Association companies. Unlike more traditional and (ABIPTI), an organization that represents 120 symbiotic forms, the new ways of networking research institutions across Brazil. ABIPTI’s are not restricted by geographic barriers. They goals include information dissemination, do not involve crossed shareholdings (for lobbying, benchmarking and training. instance, Japanese keiretsus), and the Our objective has been to deepen connections information exchange goes far beyond that between the research institutions, to cultivate which would be required to complete knowledge sharing and to promote production orders. In many cases, exchanges Communities of Practice (CoP). There is a of “intangibles” (information or knowledge) are, strong potential for change from local, isolated in fact, the only relevant exchanges among the perspectives to a broad, networked members of competitive clusters. In this new perspective and compelling examples. The era, the participants of these networks project highlighted 16 pertinent reasons why collaborate to attend to the long- and short- knowledge sharing contributes to personal term needs of their customers and to create power and helped to bring a greater new knowledge and products2. awareness of the concepts and tools of The theoretical foundation and rationale for the Knowledge Management to ABIPTI project has included important conclusions participants. from these studies: The project has shown that dealing with personal perceptions about the value of 1. Michael Porter’s Competitive Advantage of sharing knowledge is one the pillars for Nations, which called attention to the success in building communities of practice atmosphere of learning, cooperation and and networks that can also enhance personal high competition existing in micro-regions; returns. 1 Malone, T. W. & Laubacher, R.J., All change for the e-lance economy, FP Mastering, National Post, July 10, 2001 2 Tapscott, D; Ticoll, D & Lowy, A. Digital Capital: harnessing the power of business webs, HBS Press, 2000 ©TerraForum Consultores 1
  2. 2. Gestão do Conhecimento Sharing knowledge as a source of personal power 2. Anna Lee Saxenian’s Regional All of the above references suggest that Advantage, which linked the development companies that belong to competitive clusters of the Silicon Valley with the informal flows work, in general, synergistically and/or may and networks of collaboration and hold various common interests. Among the knowledge among enterprises, universities most typical common interests the following and government3; may be mentioned: satisfaction of final customers, technological development, 3. Studies of Japanese kairetsus that support sectoral or local regulation, work force training, high level of cooperation and exchange of development of infrastructure, exports, information among companies in the relations with the government, academia and productive chain; other not-for-profit institutions, etc. In this emerging scenario and with this new 4. Studies of European “syndicates of understanding, we believe that it is very hard companies”. These are associations of for enterprises and institutions from developing small and medium companies that do not countries to survive the challenges imposed by compete against each other and are co- international competition, let alone succeed in proprietors of “cooperatives” that assume making themselves competitive. The external responsibility for activities in common , competition with companies from developed such as: marketing, distribution, entry into countries require other forms of learning to be foreign markets, licensing of technology, much more prominent and demand much more etc4; modern strategies to speed up both the creation and the flow of knowledge within and 5. Research on networks between small and among enterprises and other institutions, such medium enterprises in Australia and Asia as research centers, universities, trade and that showed that even when networked industrial associations, governments, etc. To technologies were adopted to allow overcome the disadvantages in terms of connectivity between companies, the resources and solid knowledge institutions, potential for knowledge exchange was they must of necessity employ coordinated highly dependent on the level of trust5; educational, managerial and business strategies, proactively incorporated into the 6. Research on inter-organizational environment. communities of practices that reinforced There is a synergistic and innovative the idea that collaboration is “a opportunity to strengthen certain economic cooperative, inter-organizational clusters, regions and value chains. Important relationship that relies on neither market regional development and/or productive chain nor hierarchical mechanisms of control but strategies are beginning to appear, which take is instead negotiated in an ongoing into account, at the same time, the concepts of communicative process”6. Cluster Economics and Knowledge Management and which leverage corporate 3 Saxenian, A., Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in portals technologies. Silicon Valley and Route 128, Harvard University Press, 1996 4 The Economist, Will the corporation survive? November 1st, The ideas discussed in this section formed the 2001 foundation that led to the implementation of the 5 Braun, P., Digital knowledge networks: Linking communities of practice with innovation. Journal of Business Strategies, 2002. project presented below. 19(1): p. 43-54., in: Inter-Organizational Communities of Practice by C. van Winkelen 6 Lawrence, T., N. Philips, and C. Hardy, Watching whale watching. Exploring the discursive foundations of collaborative 35(4): p. 479-502. in: Inter-Organizational Communities of relationships. Journal of Applied Behavioural Science, 1999. Practice by C. van Winkelen ©TerraForum Consultores 2
  3. 3. Gestão do Conhecimento Sharing knowledge as a source of personal power Project Background 1. From small (300 researchers) to large Brazil has made huge strides in terms of its organizations (3000 researchers); overall industrial and technological outputs in the last three decades. During this period, the 2. From very sector focused (e.g. agriculture, Brazilian Government financed and built a wide oil, nuclear) to very diversified research university and public research institute system. institutes; As a result Brazil’s contribution to science, measured by the Science Citation Index of the 3. From private foundations to government- Institute for Scientific Information improved owned (States and Federal entities); significantly from 2,000 articles per year in 1980, to over 12,000 articles in 2000. 4. From the very south to the very north of Despite this success, it is clear that Brazil’s Brazil (see Figure 1 below). current Innovation System will have to be Currently (mid-2004), in phase 3 of the project, redrawn in face of the need to foster new there are approximately 30 institutions that levels of collaboration and to leverage scarce have representatives participating in the research resources. In the fairly recent past, it project with the numbers of participating was possible for some research institutes in members and the flow of valuable information Brazil to provide adequate services and and knowledge growing weekly. produce locally-relevant research based on their own physical and intellectual resources. This has changed dramatically due to the fact that the web has made geographical distances a lot less relevant and that knowledge seekers find it much easier to find relevant providers, vendors and institutions located almost anywhere. Distance: It was in this context that we were invited by Approximately ABIPTI to help them in their efforts to 2,500 miles disseminate knowledge management (KM) practices. In phase 1 of our work, which started in late 2002, we offered training about KM to Location of close to 200 people in various regions of participating Brazil. During the next phase (as of mid-2003) organizations we helped to actually put KM into practice by way of developing Communities of Practices involving people from the leading member Figure 1: Location of initial 15 participating organizations belonging to ABIPTI. institutes For these first two phases of our work, fifteen research institutes were selected - the best The initial focus was on developing managed & top performing. These included a Communities of Practice that extended across broad range of organizations: all 15 organizations and aimed at rapidly achieving tangible results that would in turn foster the development of KM initiatives within each of the fifteen research institutes. To initiate this project, four Communities of Practice were selected by topic area: Management & Commercialization of ©TerraForum Consultores 3
  4. 4. Gestão do Conhecimento Sharing knowledge as a source of personal power Intellectual Property, Quality Management, 1. Knowledge Bases; “Geological Risks” and Food Safety. These topic areas were chosen for the following 2. Members’ Directories; reasons: 3. Content and Document Management; 1. There was enough critical mass in terms of available digital content, as well as 4. Advanced Search; interested and qualified personnel; 5. Events Management; 2. They are well-defined topics; 6. Alert and Subscription Tools, Forums, 3. They are topics that can engage and Personalization, etc. motivate wide participation; Throughout the design and development of these CoPs, a number of face-to-face meetings 4. They are strategic topics with a wide gap were held. These meetings were critical not between the top and bottom performers; only for defining key aspects of the tools and the organization of documents (e.g. taxonomy), 5. A number of people interested in but also for building trust and understanding promoting debates and knowledge among members of the research institutes. exchanges were identified; Knowledge-Sharing Cultures? 6. A few experts that could help with valuable Initially, the concepts of Cluster Economics, initial content were also identified; Knowledge Management, Corporate Portals and Communities of Practice were not very 7. These are topics that are directly related to clear among the executives and researchers of the services provided to the clients of these organizations. Consequently, the first these research institutes; phase of this project involved many training sessions and events. These training sessions 8. These communities can rapidly expand to had two key objectives: (1) explaining the include people from other types of concepts and tools of Knowledge organizations (industry, government and Management; (2) changing the mindset of the universities, etc). employees and researchers of these A Knowledge Portal was built with key institutions from a local, isolated perspective to functionalities to support the development of a broad, networked perspective – a knowledge these CoPs. Examples of key functionalities sharing perspective. included: We knew from the start that people and organizations will not voluntarily share what they know if they do not trust the other parties or see specific gains. The degree of trust, however, is rooted in history, myths and a set of prevailing values while people tend to have less trust in individuals of another race, country or culture7. Trust develops over time and does 7 Interesting research and publications on “trust” include: - Alesina, A. & La Ferrara, E., Who trusts others?, Journal of Public Economics, 2001 ©TerraForum Consultores 4
  5. 5. Gestão do Conhecimento Sharing knowledge as a source of personal power not readily increase. Given the enormous 4. setting-up offline and online support distances in Brazil and its many sub-cultures, systems to increase knowledge sharing; this alone was an important challenge for the project. 5. hiring people whose key mission is to It is also well-known that some individuals, facilitate knowledge sharing; organizations and cultures can be a lot more innovative, knowledge-sharing or process- 6. measuring exchanges of valuable oriented than others. Cultures, however, are information, etc. very slow to change. We accepted that it would be impossible to move the project ahead 7. People who share their knowledge gain based on the idea that the specific cultures of visibility and notoriety so many organizations would need to be In an age where power sources are fleeting, changed and decided to help individuals to unstable and increasingly grounded on learn some benefits from sharing their valued intangibles, individuals that aim to build a knowledge. The motivation was not grounded thriving career and professional life are in trying to change people’s intrinsic values, increasingly dependent on their level of but by helping the individuals from these visibility and notoriety. This has always been institutions to learn how personal knowledge true. Nowadays, however, as allegiance to a and power are created in the Networked and specific organization diminishes dramatically, Knowledge Era. an individual’s visibility and notoriety becomes Thus, sixteen reasons to share personal a key personal asset. knowledge were discussed in depth: 8. People who share their knowledge are 1. Organizations are increasingly valuing acknowledged and appreciated people who share their knowledge Similar to reason number two, but more The plain truth is that most managerial systems focused on the intrinsic rewards, it is important were not designed to explicitly acknowledge or to discuss the fact that sharing in itself can reward people who share their knowledge. deliver tremendous value to individuals. As the This, however, is changing. Leading philosopher and psychologist William James organizations are making “knowledge-sharing” once said: “The deepest principle in human a formal and stated core value. There are nature is the craving to be appreciated”. many examples of organizations that are: 9. Knowledge-sharing is required in order to 2. including knowledge sharing in their core belong to networks that help filter values; information One of the hottest drivers of knowledge 3. organizing internal events to celebrate management is information overload. Articles, knowledge sharing; books and technologies address this fast growing challenge for many individuals working in the fast lane of the Knowledge Era. This is indeed one of “the” challenges of the 21st Century. At the current rate of increase in the - Clark, K. & Serfon, M., The Sequential Prisoner’s volume of information being created and Dilemma: Evidence on Reciprocation, Economic Journal, January, 2000 distributed worldwide, it will likely get much - Fukuyama, F., Trust: The Social Virtues and the worse before an important breakthrough in Creation of Prosperity, Penguin Books, 1995 handling information (besides current - Glaeser, E. et al., Measuring Trust, Quarterly Journal of Economics, August 2000 personalization technology) makes the ©TerraForum Consultores 5
  6. 6. Gestão do Conhecimento Sharing knowledge as a source of personal power situation better. In this fascinating scenario, the develop relationships with people that they do answer may lie in personal networks that help not see face-to-face on a regular basis. individuals scan and filter information. 13. Knowledge codification may reduce 10. Sharing is key to personal learning experts’ work Any teacher, instructor or professor will tell you Some people that are currently sought after for that teaching is a huge motivator to self- specific advice or information can reduce their development and learning. Indeed people can workload by simply writing down some of their learn in many ways as they teach. Teaching past experience and by sharing very specific requires reflection, synthesis and the ability to information. reconfigure one’s own knowledge and experience to adapt to specific contexts. 14. Digital codification greatly amplifies reach Knowledge-sharers also learn because other at a very low cost people seek them out for advice, debate and Some people have learned to use the web as a feedback. People who do not share do not great amplifier of their personal reach. In the benefit as much from the input of others and past only a few individuals would be able to be may miss out on opportunities to rethink their heard on a very large scale. That has changed own assumptions and discover new insights dramatically. Individuals who learn how to based on particular inputs and questions. publish on the web (or Intranets) on a regular basis and understand this new medium's ways 11. Knowledge-sharing works as an important of propagating information, can greatly currency increase their power to influence others with As information, knowledge and expertise are their ideas. This can be done at a cost that was increasingly valued, knowledge-sharers may completely unthinkable just a few years ago. be granted access to other people’s knowledge more easily. Knowledge has an asymmetric 15. It’s a way to move ahead to new nature: it may cost nothing for the giver and be challenges greatly valued by the receiver. Thus one can One of the most unnoticed benefits of sharing say that knowledge-sharers may be entitled to information, especially through carefully written a good cost/benefit through their knowledge reports, documents, books, etc. is the fact that exchanges. by writing, people are not only sharing what they know. They are also learning, 12. Personal networks are increasingly synthesizing and building knowledge. important for one’s professional Individuals who do not write down their advancement thoughts, ideas and experiences often may get The importance of personal networks for entangled in unresolved reasoning and, professional advancement has been proven by therefore, not move ahead to new challenges. many studies and justified by simple intuition. Academia has learned that for a long time. This is known as the power of “weak ties” or as PhD dissertations, Masters theses and articles the value of social capital. If this was true in the have helped individuals not only to test their past, today is even more so. First, as loyalties knowledge in front of their peers, but also to between organizations and employees are gain experience in organizing their ideas, reduced, the networks become more important preparing them for higher levels of both for professional advancement and as achievements. some kind of personal insurance against unforeseen layoffs. Secondly, the web has allowed individuals to maintain and even ©TerraForum Consultores 6
  7. 7. Gestão do Conhecimento Sharing knowledge as a source of personal power 16. Knowledge workers are now “carrying their 20. It is a way to legitimize leadership and portfolio” foster similar behaviour Architects, designers and craftsmen have been If one wants other people to start sharing carrying and showing their portfolio for a long knowledge the most important thing is to set an time. Knowledge workers are starting to do the example to others. People in positions of same. In many leading organizations it is now leadership that understand the value of possible to look at the portfolio of individuals’ knowledge-sharing in their organizations internal publications very easily. The outputs of should, therefore, be the first ones to share many individuals are also being displayed valuable knowledge as often and as efficiently widely for anyone to consult on the web. Thus, as they can. constantly sharing is also a way to build ones’ own portfolio. 21. Sharing creates substitutes that allow one to move on 17. People need networks in order to solve As organizations go through reorganizations or complex problems need to find candidates for new positions, they Innovations are increasingly dependent on the will look to their talent pool and find out who combination of different skills and different can move on to fill the vacancies. In these fields of knowledge. Those who do not share situations it may happen that talented frequently are also less likely to have access to individuals may not get promoted because they networks that will help them solve complex do not have substitutes that can occupy their problems. In a way, developing networks current positions. Knowledge sharing not only through constant sharing is like an exercise to enhances one’s promotion prospects, it also augment one’s intelligence. Smarter people allows an easier succession and a smoother these days are people who rely not only on transition. their own experience and knowledge, but that can also easily tap into many different skills, Final Considerations experiences and knowledge. These sixteen considerations may or may not apply to specific individuals and contexts. They 18. People need to “belong” are, however, a long list of reasons for Sharing helps people to bond with others in individuals to rationally consider why they ways that help them to build their own identity. should share what they know for their own Increasingly people are defining themselves by benefit. In the context of the ABIPTI project this their knowledge associations. Knowledge list was the object of many discussions with associations are developed though through individuals who were invited to participate in constant exchange of information, feedback, the CoPs. In our experience this approach was experiences and “war stories”. very useful and helped a few individuals to rethink their own views in terms of the opening 19. Sharing improves self-image question presented here: “If knowledge is It has long being held that as individuals move power, why should I share it?” up the ladder of basic human necessities, self- Clearly some individuals have fully grasped the image becomes the most important need to be arguments above, while others were met. Thus, sharing knowledge can certainly completely unmoved. It is, therefore, hard to be help individuals at this stage to feel more very assertive about the impact that the above fulfilled. discussion has had on the development of the CoPs thus far. It is our impression, however, that dealing with the power issues of sharing ©TerraForum Consultores 7
  8. 8. Gestão do Conhecimento Sharing knowledge as a source of personal power knowledge early on and as openly as we did that commit their time and energy. This is, was a better approach than to try to change maybe, the key lesson of the project described the cultures of the many organizations involved here. in the project. Based on this experience and a few other experiences in KM projects, there are The initiative described here is significant in its a number of “rules of thumb” that are probably ambition. Its success may have a profound worth to be shared. They are presented in the impact on how Brazil integrates the table 1 below. considerable amount of knowledge that is available in this very large country, but that is Table1: KM projects - Cultural Challenges & Lines of Action Typical Cultural Challenges Recommended Lines of Action Lack of focus on the knowledge dimension; Have in-depth discussions about the Need to establish long-term relationships growing need for collaboration from a before sharing personal and organizational perspectives High importance of personal contacts Find leaders and work with them “Me too” attitude Help people understand how sharing “What’s in it for me?” knowledge can benefit them Fear of digital tools for collaboration Try to understand what motivates people Local view of the world Use face-to-face meetings to discuss “real” Short-term perspective issues that are relevant for the community Find topics that galvanize the community Help well-respected experts to participate – provide special attention. Use “fun” stories & pictures, etc. The major lesson, however, is that currently very much dispersed. Geographical implementing a portal, community or KM isolation is no longer a viable option for any projects in general can be compared with large organization or even country. Individuals and social change. It is never easy. KM is, in a big organizations now seek information and way, about changing attitudes, habits and knowledge regardless of their location. perceptions of value. Thus, it requires people This project is not yet a success in a traditional in the backstage that are really supportive and sense. Maybe, it will never be. The key metrics people in the front stage who are very are not about number of hits, contributions, attentive, sensitive to people’s ambitions, fears articles, etc. Although these items are being and motivations. The important role of measured, the leadership behind this project is moderators has been by many practitioners also very much interested in provoking a major and authors. We will not dispute its importance. change of attitude in terms of world view: from Good moderators can indeed play an important isolation to broad collaboration. The near role by bringing people together, enticing future will involve continuing support the people to speak, making sure questions do not development of the CoP and gathering of good go unanswered, etc. The toughest part, knowledge-sharing stories. The project will be however has to do with helping most people evaluated based on traditional signs of develop a new “world view” about the key role valuable practices that were shared and that collaboration can play in their personal reused, projects that emerged through the and professional life, as well as for the future of CoPs and also about the personal value that their organizations. This on-going exercise is individuals are getting from participation. It is critical and takes engaged and true leaders very clear, however, that it has already ©TerraForum Consultores 8
  9. 9. Gestão do Conhecimento Sharing knowledge as a source of personal power changed the attitudes, perceptions and habits perceptions about the value of sharing of a significant number of individuals. knowledge seems to be one of the pillars for These kinds of initiatives are of particular success in this kind of initiative. importance to developing countries. Such countries do not have the resources of *** multinationals who are developing their own José Cláudio C. Terra é presidente da internal knowledge portals and leveraging TerraForum Consultores. Atua como consultor knowledge from all over the world. The route e palestrante no Canadá, nos Estados Unidos, for inter-organizational collaboration through em Portugal, na França e no Brasil. Também é knowledge portals is not an easy route, but professor de vários programas de pós- one that is very promising. Indeed, it is graduação e MBA e autor de vários livros probably a prerequisite for competing in the sobre o tema. Knowledge Era. Our experience in this project has shown that dealing with people’s ©TerraForum Consultores 9
  10. 10. Gestão do Conhecimento Sharing knowledge as a source of personal power Gestão do Conhecimento - O Grande Desafio A EMPRESA Empresarial A TerraForum Consultores é uma empresa Gestão do Conhecimento em pequenas e de consultoria e treinamento em Gestão do médias empresas Conhecimento (GC) e Tecnologia da Informação. Os clientes da empresa são, em Realizing the Promise of Corporate Portals: sua maioria, grandes e médias organizações Leveraging Knowledge for Business Success dos setores público, privado e terceiro setor. A empresa atua em todo o Brasil e também Gestão de Empresas na Era do no exterior, tendo escritórios em São Paulo, Conhecimento Brasília e Ottawa no Canadá. É dirigida pelo Dr. José Cláudio Terra, pioneiro e maior referência em Gestão do Conhecimento no país. Além disso, conta com uma equipe especializada e internacional de consultores. Artigos Relacionados Comunidades de Prática: o desafio e os impactos da atuação do moderador Comunidades de Prática: conceitos, resultados e métodos de gestão O papel da organização nos diferentes estágios da Comunidade de Prática PUBLICAÇÕES TERRAFORUM Gestão do Conhecimento e E-learning na Prática Portais Corporativos, a Revolução na Gestão do Conhecimento ©TerraForum Consultores 10