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If sharing information is so valuable … why do so few people do it?

SharingKnowledgeA couple of years ago, I wrote briefly on the blog (and a lengthier article) about Don Tapscott’s 2006 bestseller Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything (The benefits of mass collaboration), and a recent event got me thinking once again about the value of sharing information. In the book, Tapscott tells the story of how in 2000, Goldcorp’s CEO Rob McEwen bucked the trend in the conservative and highly-secretive gold mining industry and shared the company’s proprietary data with the world. As a result, he gained access to some of the most talented minds on the planet, almost all of which were outside the boundaries of his organization, and transformed his struggling $100 million company into a $9 billion mega force. McEwen had the foresight to realize that by sharing some of his closely-guarded intellectual property, he could harness the power of collective genius and capability, and thus, take his company to the cutting edge of innovation and wealth creation.

It’s now 2015, so you would expect that legions of leaders everywhere would have been motivated by McEwen’s amazing success to embrace the open sharing of information and expertise, right? Not so! Other than in software development (where the open source approach is widely prevalent), most people in organizations today still carefully guard their knowledge and expertise and are unwilling to share. So why is that? My experience is that there are two reasons. First, they (erroneously) believe that sharing will put them at a disadvantage, perhaps even make their roles obsolete. The underlying hypothesis is “if you know what I know, then why would you need me?” And the second reason – people hoard information because they feel that it makes them more influential. Both of these reasons, in my opinion, have no merit.

What has been your experience? Do people in your workplace share or hoard information? And whatever your response, why, and is it a good thing?

4 thoughts on “If sharing information is so valuable … why do so few people do it?

  1. We have many people who choose not to share information which is so unfortunate. Sharing information keeps people engaged, motivated and improves their growth and development.

  2. Couldn’t agree with you more Andrea! Regrettably, I see many people withhold information as a way to (unsuccessfully) elevate their own status.

    1. Great article but I’m not sure if I want to share any information with you regarding my comments. What may you do with my information? What is your intention? Am I at risk for sharing? Might there be a negative consequence? Can I trust you? All of these questions have many connecting themes, one of which is as follows: It’s all about “Me!!” Yes, there is an “I” in team and that in part is getting in the way of sharing information. PS. Feel free to share my name and website with others. 🙂

      1. Ha, you’re funny Robert! But also very insightful. All the questions you raise (perhaps tongue-in-cheek) are ones that also go through people’s minds when they are faced with the dilemma of “to share or not to share”. But it’s ironic that what they do to “keep themselves safe” is actually what will set them back, both from a professional/career as well as a personal relationship perspective.

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