Building on the principles that Shawn has put together over at Anecdote (which I came across this afternoon via Jack Vinson), I came up with a little acronym that I think summarizes some of the main points. Overall, I think in order to get people to share knowledge, we want them to be… B-R-I-I-T-T-E-R.
Borrowing: Taking ideas from others (with attribution, as Shawn points out, and which deserves its own letter, as per the next word).
Recognizing: Providing the attribution for ideas that people deserve.
Investigating: Don’t be a bump on a log. Research, investigate, find out what’s going on inside and outside the organization — especially when stuck on a problem.
Inquiring: Don’t just bury your head in books — ask people what they think, how they think, how they work, and what they do.
Trusting: It’s hard to trust people, but they’ll be more willing to trust if you make the first move. Make a point of trying to open up to colleagues about issues and challenges you’re facing in your job.
Teaching: Don’t give up on people that don’t know how to do something as well as you do. Be willing to take the time to teach the things you know well.
Encouraging: Even if you think someone’s idea is the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard, don’t tear people down. You can be critical in a positive, constructive way.
Receptive: Be willing to learn new ways to do things. Don’t always be a teacher — we all need to be a student sometimes as well. And don’t get flustered when someone knows how to do something better than you.
I think if we all worked every day to stick to these 8 ways of being, not only would knowledge sharing increase dramatically, but I think people’s general productivity and happiness would increase. And it’s good to remember that creating a trusting environment where knowledge sharing can happen has to start with a few people who are willing to take a chance.