In Knowledge Management Needs to be Agile, Too, I said
If you put people in competition with each other *in any way*, they will have dis-incentives to share their knowledge.
John, in his comment on that post, said it seemed intuitive, but was having trouble articulating why. I’m here to help :-) Some of my reasons, which all go to how people are evaluated and compensated.
Managers evaluate and compensate people for their knowledge, rather than the results they provide. Sure, a company might say “We want you to work together and share your knowledge.” But as soon as they pay people for their knowledge, not their results, everyone is in competition with each other.
And, if an organization pays people individually (even though all the work we do in organizations is via some sort of team), knowledge sharing goes right out the window. If you and I are in competition for raises (and paying people individually after evaluating them means that we are in competition), why should I share what I know with you? That sharing can only hurt me.
The only way I know to enable knowledge sharing across an organization is to:
- Pay for results
- Pay people “enough”so it doesn’t hurt them financially to cooperate with each other
- Use open-book management so people know who’s making what.
Sure, some people will share their knowledge because it enables the organization to do better, but those of us who know the company doesn’t love us are going to be much less altruistic. As soon as our sharing hurts us, we stop.