Monday 17 August 2015

Why I don't like "steal with pride"

You often come across the phrase "Steal with Pride" in a Knowledge Management context.  It means "don't be ashamed to take ideas from others" but it is a phrase that can easily backfire if you are not careful.

The phrase is used to overcome people's reluctance to learn, and their suspicion (from school days) that "copying answers from someone else is cheating".

To the extent that the phrase overcomes this cultural barrier it is useful, but the word that is most loaded and can easily backfire on you is "steal"

Re-use of knowledge should not be theft, and labelling it as theft is dangerous. Knowledge in an organisation should be donated willingly, shared openly, and re-used with acknowledgement and credit.

It is the acknowledgement and credit that makes the difference between knowledge re-use and knowledge theft. Knowledge theft is when someone else takes your material, or your idea, or your knowledge, or your practice, and passes it off as their own.  People hate that - they hate seeing their knowledge or their material being stolen and someone else getting all the credit.  As Terry Pratchett says in "Unseen Academicals", its a short step from Adopt, Adapt, Improve to Steal, Use, and Look Innocent.

Knowledge sharing and reuse is great, provided due credit and acknowledgement is given.

This is not theft, this is intellectual recycling. In all the knowledge assets and knowledge bases and lessons learned systems we are involved with, we make sure that the name of the orginator stays with the knowledge, and that they get credit for sharing.  Their knowledge remains theirs, even when re-used by others.

Reuse with pride; yes.

Reuse with acknowledgement, re-use with credit, re-use with thanks.

But don't steal.

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