Wednesday 17 December 2014

How to motivate people to share? Don't bother.

Another client has asked us "how do we incentivise  knowledge sharing?" The answer we usually give is "don't bother".

We give this answer, because knowledge sharing in itself achieves nothing. Knowledge needs to be re-used before any value has been added, and before KM has delivered.

And of the two - sharing and re-use - far bigger barriers are present in re-use. The Not Invented Here syndrome is far more prevalent than Knowledge Hoarding.

As an analogue, think of a driver in a car in a strange city, looking for a building which is not on the satnav.  They need knowledge, people on the sidewalk have the knowledge, but the knowledge doesn't reach the driver; not because people won't share, but because the driver usually doesn't ask.

Without an appetite for knowledge re-use, knowledge sharing can actually be counter-productive, resulting in the feeling of the "knowledge firehose".

Better to incentivise knowledge seeking first then knowledge sharing later, create the appetite for knowledge before you create the access, and create the demand before you create the supply.

There will naturally be SOME supply already, as there are people who naturally like to publish. They like to share, they like to write, they were given two ears, one mouth and ten fingers and use them in that proportion.  However if you create the demand and create the channel, the supply will follow. As David Snowden pointed out,
"In the context of real need few people will withhold their knowledge. A genuine request for help is not often refused unless there is literally no time or a previous history of distrust. On the other hand ask people to codify all that they know in advance of a contextual enquiry and it will be refused (in practice its impossible anyway). Linking and connecting people is more important than storing their artifacts".
Create the need, connect the people, and the sharing will follow.

And how do you create the need for knowledge?  There are a number of ways;

So don't incentivise knowledge sharing - incentivise knowledge seeking first. The sharing will follow.


Lwazi Ian Dlamini said...

I would like to think of knowledge as a product. When viewed as product one can start thinking of the customer; the primary reason a product exists. Without the customer, the product has little/no significance. The causal question then becomes, “Who is our knowledge customer? Does the customer need our product? If yes, how do we satisfy the need? If no, how do we create/innovate the need?”

Wearing my mass communications glasses, I see the latter questions’ answer captured by the communication process; source >> message >> channel >> audience >> feedback. You rightly point out that “Without an appetite for knowledge reuse, knowledge sharing can usually be counterproductive…” It is our duty as communicators to ‘boost’ the audience’s appetite for knowledge.

As we generate knowledge, we must THINK OF THE AUDIENCE’S NEED; as we capture knowledge, we must THINK OF THE AUDIENCE’S NEED; as we package knowledge, we must THINK OF THE AUDIENCE’S NEED; as we share/disseminate knowledge, we must THINK OF THE AUDIENCE’S NEED. The audience’s need best informs us (source) about what (knowledge) message to develop and how; what channel to use and the effect.

If the need is non-existent, we must CREATE IT just as Steve Jobs created the need for an iPad. I didn’t know I needed one until Apple sold it to me. Also key is explicitly enlightening the audience about the benefit of knowledge (the value it creates); just as marketers do with their products. For instance, the advertising message in Coca-Cola’s slogans is all about the “benefit of buying coke.”

From the 1929 tagline “The Pause That Refreshes” to “Delicious and refreshing” to “Enjoy life” to “Coke adds life” to “Life Tastes Good” to “Open Happiness” to “Life begins here,” the message is clear; buy coke and reap the benefits!

Using Coca-Cola’s communication-centered approach in creating the demand for its product, we can also create the demand for own our product – knowledge. We could attach value to knowledge just as the value of a product is mirrored by its price. In other words, we could create a market for knowledge. Food for thought then becomes, “Who creates the market? How?” Another question may arise, “Isn’t the knowledge market already existing?”

Nick Milton said...

Your questions about creating the knowledge market are addressed in the following blog posts, among others

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