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There is no denying the fact that we are a nation of hoarders. We love to hoard. Our traders are known for hoarding goods, particularly eatables, to create artificial shortages and enhance the prices. In the recent times, we saw major hoarding campaigns of sugar and wheat/wheat flour where the government could not do anything, which is also usual. The prices rose and availability became normal. At home, we hoard everything. Our homes are one-way abysses where items come in but cannot go out, not even their packaging. Every household carries trinkets from the last 50-60 years. It is not entirely due to emotional attachment, which is understandable, it is more out of our habit of hoarding. It is therefore not surprising that we hoard knowledge also. In fact, this is among the most hoarded commodities.
Knowledge hoarding at workplaces comes in several forms. Staff members at workplace gain two categories of knowledge: one, about the work they do; two, about the workplace itself. First one is the right and obligation of everyone. They will not be able to perform their job if they do not learn. This is truer for fresh entrants because they have no prior exposure and learning. For more experienced ones, it is easier to quickly take over assigned work. The second category of knowledge, the workplace knowledge, is specific to every workplace. No two places are identical though you may find certain similarities. Knowledge about work helps to perform better while knowledge about workplace helps to survive better.
Two issues are commonly seen at workplaces vis-à-vis knowledge sharing. One is the overt or covert refusal to share knowledge, the other is deliberately giving wrong knowledge. In my experience, all new joiners, even those at very senior level, pass through this ordeal where they are fed with wrong information. With experience, they may quickly identify the fact from falsehood, but it is still a waste of time and energy. Less experienced/ fresh people get waylaid easily due to misinformation, waste a lot of time, and feel perplexed and depressed.
Loss of organizational knowledge is recognized worldwide as a serious problem. It may occur when long-serving staff choose to leave or retire or may die. Some companies which have greater reliance on knowledge have appointed CKOs – Chief Knowledge Officers – whose job is to identify, gather and preserve organization knowledge for use by all now and later.
Knowledge hoarding may occur due to any/all of the following reasons.
- Insecurity about own job and hoarding knowledge as security
- Incompatible team environment leading to discouragement of sharing
- Assumption that probably others already know it
- Feeling that I obtained it through hard work, it is my property
- Contempt that the others should also go through the hard drill to get it
- Effort to get some extra advantage with own knowledge
Whatever the reason, the organization is the ultimate loser. If knowledge hoarding is not actively addressed and discouraged, it may become a serious issue.
Team leaders must determine the extent of knowledge hoarding and take measures to correct it, minimize it, and eliminate it.
The remedy would start from establishing and maintaining an environment of security, common goals, and common effort. Fairness in dealing is critical.
Team members should be collectively encouraged to share information freely. It should be set as a norm that knowledge would be shared. Those who have more knowledge and share it should be recognized, appreciated, and valued.
Sharing rituals besides, there may still be some loners who would not like to share. Such member should be talked to individually first. If they still do not come round to sharing, then they should be forced by giving assignments for sharing knowledge.
If a performance management system is in place, this factor may be included in the appraisal format, and it should be regularly appraised.
Finally, it all starts from the seniors. If they are maintaining silos, then their teams cannot be expected to share knowledge within themselves and across.
Knowledge hoarding is a serious problem in organizations. It leads to losses, poor relations, and poorer output. It is necessary to combat it actively and urgently.
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