altruism as a cultivated resource

October 2nd, 2002

Phil Windley notices my post about sharing and talks about the altruistic “abundance mentality” that is a prerequisite to becoming an effective blogger. That certainly describes me and many other people I know who regularly share knowledge whether or not it’s via blogging.

Of course, it also *doesn’t* describe a much larger lot of people that make up most organizations, and that’s problematic to the introduction of knowledge sharing tools.

With my recent plugging of Open Source collaborative content management tools, I’ve done a lot of thinking about what it takes to make knowledge sharing work in an organization. What it takes is enthusiasm, altruism, optimism. For it all to really sing, you have to attract a critical slice of the target audience who will participate fully and happily.

But you can’t simply decree that everyone in the organization will tomorrow become lucid, concise, insightful writers or will feel enthusiastic about their work. Some people will never have it in them, some just need to get bit by the bug.

Traditional Knowledge Management too often involves a top-down command and control restrictive model. In contrast, Knowledge Sharing is a grassroots bottom-up empowerment model. The effective way to grow it is to introduce it, find evangelists, and let it grow. That can only work in an organization where people feel like they’re part of a living organism working towards a common goal, not in a politics-ridden cube farm.

It’s pretty hard to find that in a large organization, especially in government. I worked for 10 years in the Ontario government in 3 different ministries, and there is absolutely NO way it’s ever gonna happen soon there.

Makes a guy wanna move to Utah. But it’s so much warmer in Toronto. Well, today, anyhow.

One comment to “altruism as a cultivated resource”

  1. Hi Brent,

    Terry Frazier put me on to your writing and I’m glad he did, you’re writing interesting stuff.

    Like you I am out on the edge trying to find a way to make blogging pay the bills. I think you may be doing a better job than I. I’m sooo flying by the seat of my pants that I’m beginning to feel the scorch marks as the ground passes under me.

    What you describe here is a fear of mine. That in order to make business weblogging / klogging a success we have to strip it of all the best parts. Out goes the knowledge sharing, out goes building communities of practice. All too “a brighter tomorrow” for todays fear-ridden corporations.

    I listened to a Geoffrey Moore webcast recently titled “Provocation Selling: Making quota in a downmarket” (via Rick Klau’s site) and it was very interesting. Basically he says the only way to sell software to large corps today is to fix “leaky pipes.” So knowledge logging must become a wrench.

    My current angle is that internal communications and awareness is the “leaky pipe.”

    I am trying to develop a line that sells business weblogging as a way to make corporations more responsive to internal changes and data “at the edge.”

    Weblogs as smoke alarms?