Tuesday 8 July 2014

The rumour mill, the grapevine and the gossip network

Knowledge sharing is alive and well within even the most siloed organisation - so long as the Knowledge takes the form of gossip and rumour.

No organisation is impermeable enough or siloed enough to block gossip and rumour - there is something about these mechanisms of sharing that make them impossible to kill, even when gossip is malicious, and rumours are wrong.

One of the factors at work here is that the transfer of gossip or rumour confers benefits to both parties - the giver gains status through their prior knowledge, and the gainer gains potential status, which they will cash in when they pass the rumour further.  Also the rumour or gossip is often very simple and easy to pass on.

So what can KM learn from these highly efficient forms of knowledge sharing? An article called "Working the Grapevine", from CPA Canada, gives a couple of ideas.
  • If there is no information, then the grapevine will make some up to fill the gaop. Better to communicate somethign, rather than nthing. "By sharing what they know – even preliminary or partial information – managers can substantially improve the quality of the information circulating through the company grapevine. Information accompanied by the caveat “not yet final” is better than no information at all".
  • By sharing information with grapevine "nodes" you can spread up its spread within the grapevine. "In every organization there are certain individuals who can expedite the transmission of information through the network. Most managers view these employees with some level of frustration, and occasionally with contempt. But what if you were to deliberately share your information with these power GTS members? Not only would you get more truth into the system, you would also ensure faster circulation through the network".
In addition, we can rethink how we share knowledge. Little nuggets may be better than long documents, things that are very simple and easy to pass on (though with a link to more detail where needed). And if we can make them interesting as well, then perhaps we can see the same benefits to the sharer and receive that they get from gossip sharing. 

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