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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Theory X, Enterprise 2.0 and another reason why people don’t share knowledge.

I’ve just been reading an interesting article by Andrew McAfee on Monday and Tuesday, who cites that in his MBA class talking about Enterprise 2.0. His students cited the concern that people who posted to a blog, edit a wiki will be perceived by their organisation as slackers and not spending enough time on their ‘real‘ work. Some commentators have stated that the inverse might be true that a busy knowledge worker wouldn’t have time to utilise new technologies.

Upon further investigation, he discovered that these MBA students had experienced the reality of work. A lot had come from professional service firms which in the US do tend to be results oriented culture that tend to value hard work long hours and this is particularly prevalent in consultancies which focus on the billable hour.

These students had quickly learnt how to get on in a firm is to understand the sub culture - they saw those people who rose through the ranks and they also saw how their leaders talked about what contributions were important and those that were not. Interestingly, to me from my Organisational Development studies, they were experiencing another part of the famous work study carried out by Elton Mayo in the 1930’s at the Hawthorne works and especially the work practice known as binging.

These students went on to explain that people in organisations that value ‘busyness’ - people in firms who contribute to blogs and wikis and other elements may be seen as non workers, laggards or goof offs and don’t have enough real work to do or ‘aren’t spending enough time on their real jobs.’

This means that if your organisation falls into this category and you are a knowledge based firm is that you can benefit by providing collaborative software and having processes that encourage knowledge sharing and potential innovation pools. However, these may fall down at the people part not because the contributors are necessarily too busy - but as Mc Afee says that they don’t want to be seen as not busy enough. I have had personal experience of this in a previous job so probably this is why the article resonated with me.

The problem for leaders in the organisation is that cultures take time to change and it will take a lot of hard and consistent work to convince people that it is a smart career move rather than a poor one to contribute to a blog or a wiki.

Increasingly at forward-thinking companies, managers understand the connection between learning, innovation, and higher productivity — in fact, employees at these companies may even be encouraged to spend time learning and experimenting with new technologies.

There was another quote from another blogger who highlighted the following.

Ironically, instead of being a drag on productivity, engaging in the collaboration, knowledge creation, and mashup workarounds that Enterprise 2.0 offers may begin to increase productivity, and enable knowledge workers to get more done in shorter time. Maybe even the most old-fashioned crack-the-whip managers will see the sense in that — eventually, gradually, and once they see their companies losing market share to nimbler competitors who have embraced some of the newer ways and have looked at increasing knowledge sharing in their organisation.

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