“Human beings, are blessed with a language, a system of communication so powerful that we can share what we have learned so that it can accumulate in the collective memory. It can outlast the individuals who acquired that knowledge and it can be passed on from generation to generation”. In an engaging talk, David Christian narrates the history of the universe in an astonishing 18 minutes. An important lesson from David´s talk is the role of knowledge transfer in human evolution. (Watch´s David´s talk here)
David suggests that human evolution is product of indirect knowledge transfer. Information exchange between cells, passed on through DNA to generate a learning process, explains why we are born with some natural instincts and react to certain stimulus without actually being aware of it. Now, I am not a psychologist or scientist so I do not pretend to form or sustain any hypothesis. However, I believe it´s important to empathize one point regarding knowledge sharing: It´s part of who we are. It´s in our DNA. The act of knowledge sharing is what has allowed us to survive and evolve collectively, whether it has being consciously or unconsciously, the important thing is that it got us here.
However, in some organizations the process doesn’t come so naturally. Knowledge managers struggle to find ways to facilitate strategic knowledge transfer and “reinventing the wheel” seems to be a common problem. Perhaps there is a barrier because we still assume that knowledge is power and when we give it away we lose certain “benefits”. Hoarding knowledge is still a topic that needs to be addressed.
A common answer to the problem nowadays seems to be SharePoint-like platforms, i.e technology. Paul Arden stated, “The problem with hoarding is that you end up living off your reserves- Eventually we will become stale(…) this forces you to look, to be aware, to replenish”. I think this statement is powerful because it relates to motivation. If we are looking for quality knowledge sharing then we need to work directly with people, learn about their motivation towards knowledge sharing, understand their needs and help them unleash the power of their ideas. Technology will create the bridge but it won’t guarantee that what comes out at the other end is what we are looking for.
Understanding human motivation towards knowledge sharing is vital and a cornerstone step for knowledge management success.