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I am interested in exploring how workplaces are actually changing (not the hype). This blog is my place for thinking out loud about what I see happening - or not happening.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The image today is taken from our collection of graffiti spotted around the Brick Lane area in London, where there is a supply of constantly evolving street art.

I said yesterday that I would be writing about the article Dr Marie Puybaraud and I had published in the Knowledge Management Review journal. I have decided to postpone summarising the article for another time. There are just too many interesting conversations going on in blogs, following the recent Fast Forward conference.

The conversation I am reflecting on is the linking of Enterprise 2.0 technologies and Knowledge Management, as articulated by Tom Davenport and Andrew McAfee. Following these inter-linked conversations spawned across the different blogs, I find an interview (posted by Jon Husband) with Dave Snowden in which he says many things that are consistent with my own views - shaped by my past research and business engagement, and by other organisational theorists and observers who are saying similar things.

The thought I would like to pursue is the place of rewards and incentives in knowledge sharing. Dave Snowden's view is that financial incentives have no place in knowledge work; that knowledge interaction emanates from trust and is voluntary. In agreeing with him, I find myself reflecting on the role of non-financial incentives - crucial in knowledge work, in my view.

My doctoral research in the mid-90s was about the circumstances under which shopfloor operators contributed or witheld their knowledge. In case after case, people engaged enthusiastically in continuous improvement and process innovation so long as they were listened to, saw their contributions taken seriously and received recognition. There were of course grumbles about how much the company had saved, and how little financial reward was given in return. The lack of financial reward did not usually prevent voluntary contributing of knowledge.

The appropriation of people's knowledge was highly contingent though; knowledge could, and was, withheld as soon as people felt abused or aggrieved. As Dave Snowden says, knowledge is voluntary and based on trust. Context is everything.

Towers Perrin last year published the results of a large-scale survey on attracting and retaining talent. The analysis was based on 88,600 individual responses from 18 countries. One of their high-level findings was that people in general have a deep need for meaningful and challenging work, which confirms what we already know. They also found that many people were willing to engage in discretionary effort but that business leaders were not creating organisational systems capable of tapping into and channelling their energies.

The presentation of the findings at the the Workplace 2017 Conference (which I spoke about in yesterday's post) identified the following influencers of employee engagement:

Primary Influence
Learning and development
Senior leadership
Company image and reputation

Secondary Influence
Openness to challenge

Tertiary Influence

Have social media and Enterprise 2.0 technologies, will collaborate and share knowledge for the sake of my employer's business?

Yes, but only if I think it is worth my while, i.e. in line with my personal objectives, meets my personal needs for recognition and social connection, and leads to my work being more challenging, meaningful and with opportunities to learn and develop.

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