Your Business Has Knowledge Hiding Problem?
Knowledge Hiding is not uncommon. Because knowledge is power, knowledge is business, knowledge is the money earning recipe, knowledge brings certainty for our decisions. Firms, small, medium, large or of any scale create knowledge and build their survival on the accumulated knowledge. It makes sense for businesses to protect the knowledge by purposefully building the hiding mechanisms. It makes sense, does it not?
What if the ones who create knowledge (we, the people, are knowledge creators and knowledge workers) start hiding it from our colleagues around us? This is a BIG problem!
Knowledge Hiding and Knowledge Sharing
Knowledge hiding and knowledge sharing might seem to be the opposite of each other but in practice, they are not. It is the intention behind sharing or not sharing that makes it hiding. The force leading to knowledge hiding is the interactional justice between the two parties. Job insecurity also plays an important role in promoting knowledge hiding culture.
Hiding of knowledge as such is not a uniformly negative behaviour, as noted by Catherine E. Connelly and her colleagues research (2012) published in Journal of Organizational Behaviour. For example, it may be practiced “to protect the other party’s feelings, preserve confidentiality, or protect the interests of a third party”. In certain cases, hiding of knowledge can also be a strategy to conserve your own resources at work, especially, the energy and time.
Knowledge Hiding In Practice
How knowledge hiding work in practice? We, the professionals have learned practices to hide and protect our knowledge.
One such art is evasive hiding of knowledge. The masters of this art pretend to be knowledge-share friendly, but in practice they conceal some part of the requested knowledge or at their best they can satisfy the requester by sharing incorrect (or irrelevant) knowledge too.
“We are not dumb here, right!”, sounds like a Hollywood detective chronicles. Research suggests that playing dumb is a strategy to pretend to be lacking in the specific knowledge area for some personal long-term gain or benefit. Have you heard someone saying that I am not on top of this topic, so I am afraid to mislead you with my confusions and assumptions”? One can say that “being smart but act like a dumb” is my strategy.
Let us (not) promote rationality by practicing rationalized hiding as last strategy. One can bring justifications or at worse play blame games as reasons for not to provide the requested information. Like, “I would like to show how this formula work but am not supposed to share it…”, or “this project I am working on is confidential, can’t share the details how we tackled a similar problem; buddy, you understand such limitations…”, “top management asked me to limit the distribution so we could avoid…”
Many with decent intentions practice knowledge hoarding too!!! Knowledge hoarding as such is not same as hiding, rather it is intentionally concealing knowledge which is not asked for by the colleague but if told could help them performing their tasks. In this way the result of knowledge hoarding is not much different from hiding it.
Knowledge Hiding as Team Sport
Knowledge hiding doesn’t remain as individual sport rather it grows like any other social phenomenon and becomes team sport! It is practiced between groups, departments, and business functions. Whether it remains as an individual practice or extends as a team support. In both cases the losers are both, the business firms as well as the strategists, the people.
Do you want to know, how much hiding of knowledge is happening in your firm? The roots of knowledge hiding goes to the distrust, hyper performance and goal orientation, psychological ownership of knowledge, self-serving leadership, job insecurity.
Many firms make effort on the roots of hiding of knowledge. Even some get better at knowledge hiding but only few lucky ones get worse at it…
Digitalization Takes Back to Old School Thinking
In this era of raid Digitalization, the new systems and technologies are offering means for transparent and knowledge-sharing friendly work environment. Technology applications such as Digital Twins are inviting us back to the old school thinking “knowledge increases by sharing and not by saving.” Exciting times ahead…