Being Human – What Are You Afraid Of?

7 thoughts on “Being Human – What Are You Afraid Of?”

  1. I haven’t read those articles, will do, thanks. But as to people sharing or not, I think it’s no different in the workplace than in personal life. It depends on not only trust levels but context, then you add on personal history, the ability people have (or not) to communicate (and in different forms), and it’s complex.

    Trust levels I think are immediately self-explanatory so I won’t explain that comment further.

    Context matters in that first of all, we learn (both for better and worse) not to share what someone else isn’t “interested” in, so immediately we begin ascertaining, and too little stop to ask in that process, “does this person care to know this?” Of course we need to exercise a filter for context and we need to do it without asking each person what they want to know. Simple example, at work, certainly a person knows not to say every single thing of personal interest that pops into their head, as some of it is unduly personal, some of it wildly inappropriate to work, and some of it just fleeting and of no value even to the one thinking it. Now those are fine examples, I think, but the difficulty comes into the more fine-grained process evidenced by talking to a manager and being told (perhaps even by that manager) not to overload that person with information. So what is appropriate? It’s not so easy a question, especially in an age of information overload and the “5 minute manager”.

    Then add in personal history. What I mean by this is how one has learned to react to others, both generally and per individual encountered. If I talk to a manager, for example, who cuts me off and goes so far as to say, “I don’t care what you have to say” (I do not work with anyone like this, I’m taking a fairly extreme example for sake of demonstration) then at the least I learn not to share with that person, if only out of ego preservation. And imagine the unfortunate person who grows up abused or otherwise socially circumscribed…that person learns models for sharing that were essential to personal survival in an earlier phase but are generally counter-productive at work.

    Ability is also key. A person who is not a good communicator may learn not to communicate much, or may simply “teach” others not to pay as much attention. Factor in how others react and a person’s feelings about how others react, and sharing may be a major challenge.

    And of course I haven’t even touched corporate environments. Apple is a good example of a culture which has created disincentives for sharing (e.g., the company steadfastly refuses to share product roadmaps with enterprises, a major barrier to enterprise adoption, let alone the barriers they put up between engineers and the rest of the company to protect IP), and they are generally seen as successful (rightly or wrongly) for this culture of secrecy. I do think that their success is over-stated in that it is not clear that Jobs has instituted a sustainable diva culture to succeed him, though we won’t know that until after he departs Apple. Anyway, my point here is that corporations are often built on successes of NOT sharing. It’s a tangent to “being human” but related in that we most often react to what we perceive as success by mimicking it.

  2. Luis, I think you right here. ” Or perhaps is it due to the fact that the corporate world keeps rewarding individual performance which lives on knowledge is power and therefore people have a tendency to hide away their knowledge and not share it widely”

    I think the corporate culture of the industrial era dictated individualism over ‘community’ism. Social Business will only succeed when people genuinely feel compelled to share and discuss things that they consider of ‘power’ or an edge for themselves.

    Maybe, that’s why the true non-enterprise social communities have a common goal that the whole community feels passionately about and no one gains/looses from it from financial perspective.

    For instance, tech user groups, hot deals forums, facebook etc.

  3. Luis, my recent presentation on “Participation in CoPs” cover some of these points.

    If you are engaged you will share. Technology now enables this but it has to be facilitated.

    If people have an audience, get comments, build a reputation…sharing becomes a need to them.

    But first we need to have trust, feel comfortable and confident, build rapport.

    And then there are harder obstacles because they are top-down like: middle managers still wanting to control the flow of information. And rewarding individual action rather than collaboration.

    Here’s a link to my presentation:

  4. “Or perhaps is it due to the fact that the corporate world keeps rewarding individual performance which lives on knowledge is power and therefore people have a tendency to hide away their knowledge and not share it widely?”

    I think that the above sums most of the problem up neatly. It is very unusual to see an organization actually reward employees for real knowledge sharing. I’m talking about going way beyond rewards for making posts in discussion groups or CoP listservs. Real rewards for those employees who go out of their way to find someone else in their organization that needs the knowledge that they hold in their hands.

    As long as employees are either rewarded for doing the wrong things (e.g., sending yet another document without any meta tags off to the repository) or they see more personal benefit in hoarding the knowledge, the tendency will be to not share. Sad, but that’s the way that it is in most organizations.

  5. So true Dan, I mentioned about the issue of rewarding individual action in my comment.

    Here’s a long blog post of mine on this deep rooted problem

    We need some structural shifts for all this to happen…bottom-up is not enough

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