Knowledge Management Institute

Motivation and KM

Motivation and KM

May 29, 2019   |  By
Tom Olney, PMP, CKM, CUDE | VP, Knowledge Management - PSCU

The Million Dollar Question

If I’m a subject matter expert – and I’m recognized and rewarded for what I know – what is my motivation to share? Is it for the good of humanity, or the business, or my fellow employees? Is it to leave a legacy? Is it just because it’s the right thing to do? For most people, none of these reasons are compelling enough to stop the knowledge hoarding madness.

Breaking the Cycle

In a Harvard Business Review article titled, “How to Prevent Experts from Hoarding Knowledge,” Dorothy Leonard suggests that one of the reasons that experts are reluctant to share is that those who possess this “deep knowledge” have been undervalued in the past. Another cause for knowledge hoarding is that experts have been rewarded for the wrong things and have become part of a “superhero” culture of gurus. It’s not that expertise isn’t valuable, however. “The Ship Repair man Story – Why Experts get paid more?” points out that expertise is precious, and that those that mishandle human capital learn the hard way.  

Engagement and Rewarding the Right Things

Creating a culture of sharing is the goal, and one proven approach is to focus on employee engagement. The exceptionally well researched Gallup Employee Engagement survey provides some guidance in areas on which managers can focus. Most relevant to creating a culture of sharing are the questions that ask: have you received recent recognition, do you feel that your opinion matters and do you think your job is important. High scores on these categories (and efforts to enhance these items) can pay dividends for managers who want his or her experts to share. Systems can also be created to track and report on who are contributing to knowledge libraries. Gamification and rewards can be tied to credible contribution – and that can help prime the pump of collaboration.


About the Author:  Tom Olney currently leads the Knowledge Management function at PSCU and has extensive training and project management experience in the financial services, telecommunications, and manufacturing sectors. Over his more than 30 year career, he has regularly promoted innovative learning and knowledge management solutions and enthusiastically embraces experimentation, balancing business requirements with best-in-class solutions.

Tom earned his Certified Knowledge Manager with KMI in 2018.

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