Share Dammit!

I gave a talk called “The Social Intranet” last week at the Deltek Insight conference in Nashville. I described how architects and engineers are using social tools such as blogs, wikis, and update streams inside their firms to create, capture, and share knowledge. At the end of the talk, I introduced the Intranet Maturity Model, a framework Knowledge Architecture developed to help our clients assess and improve the quality of their intranets. The model starts at level one, with firms posting essential information on their intranet such as an employee handbook and benefits, and tops out at level five, with firms using their intranets to collaboratively identify new capabilities, services, and ideas to offer their clients.

I asked folks in the audience to share where their firms fit on the Intranet Maturity Model, on a scale from one to five. A young guy in the audience raised his hand and suggested that his firm was a zero. He did not believe that his firm’s culture supported knowledge sharing, in fact, he claimed that his leadership actively hoarded knowledge out of the fear that their employees would walk down the street and open a competing firm.

“How can a social intranet fix that?,” he asked sarcastically.

“It can’t,” was my reply. “We often compare intranets to a mirror, which reflects the strengths, weakness, and culture of an organization. Sure, better technology helps, but if your leadership is actively dissuading knowledge sharing, it only follows that your intranet would be useless. However, the opposite is also true. We have several clients whose leadership not only encourages knowledge sharing on their intranet, but actively blogs on topics that are critical to the firm’s future. Those clients know that the worst thing you could possibly say to encourage knowledge sharing is ‘Share Dammit!’ Leadership needs to actively model the behavior that they want the rest of the firm to exhibit, but more critically, explain what knowledge is most critical to target.”

I went on to introduce Dan Pink’s thesis on intrinsic motivation from his book Drive. However, I would have loved to have shown the audience Simon Sinek’s TED talk above, which I think speaks directly to the most core issue in knowledge sharing — why should we share? Codifying knowledge takes time, it is a “happy grind” as my friend Shannon McDonough says. Team members must be intrinsically motivated to sustain continuous improvement and innovation, but they must also believe that their efforts are critical to building a great company, not just a great wiki.

Sinek Circle

Simon Sinek would call intranet technology the What. There is no doubt that better technology, such as social tools, makes sharing knowledge easier, but when Knowledge Architecture uses our Intranet Maturity Model to understand why some companies build level five intranets, and others get stuck at level one, we start with Why. Why does the housing practice have such an amazing set of methodology and tools? Who is the practice leader? Why does she invest so much time in building a practice while the healthcare group does not?

I hope you enjoy Simon’s talk as much as we have.

Posted: May 24th, 2011 | Filed under: General | 4 Comments »

4 Comments on “Share Dammit!”

  1. 1 Sam F. said at 5:47 pm on May 24th, 2011:

    Great post! thanks Chris! Indeed, Some of the most innovative and most successful firms in the world are very much about sharing, open books, interaction and mentoring… my response to the young guy in the audience would have been a bit more direct…I would have said “look for another job, your firm will not be around in 5 years” … Good TED talk too, as usual…
    thanks for sharing.

  2. 2 Christopher Parsons said at 6:12 pm on May 24th, 2011:

    Thanks Sam! The second part of my response was something like:

    “We have a few clients who have amazing cultures, but poor technology. They fought and clawed to build strong practices despite the limitations of the tools. Once we were able to help improve their infrastructure, sharing accelerated. On the other hand, we’ve seen several of firms with rocking technology, but their culture prevents them from exploiting it. So, depending on where you sit, I’m either giving you really good news or really bad news.”

    I agree with your assessment about find a new firm. Ed Friedrichs came to a similar conclusion in his guest post earlier this year:

    “In fact, KM (knowledge management) and TL (thought leadership) never work if directed or assigned. So, I chimed in, “If the CEO needs convincing, get rid of the CEO or join another firm.” Well that seems to have stirred a hornet’s nest so I kept adding to the dialogue. ”

    You can read the whole post here:

    PS…Congratulations on the new job.

  3. 3 Knowledge Management is a Happy Grind « Shannon K. McDonough said at 1:33 pm on May 25th, 2011:

    […] to this notion in his recent blog post about KA’s Intranet Maturity Model, entitled, “Share Dammit!” The post also features an excellent TED Talk by Simon Sinek on the topic of what motivates […]

  4. 4 IntranetLounge said at 12:20 pm on May 26th, 2011:

    Share Dammit! – Simon Sinek’s TED talk called “The Social Intranet” – Christopher Parsons…

    This article has been submitted to IntranetLounge, a website with a collection of links to the best articles about intranets…