There’s no point in knowledge if you don’t share it: collaboration and generosity in the social age

What’s the point in knowledge if you don’t share it? Collaboration and generosity are what drive innovation and engagement and yet organisations are often obsessed with hiding things away, with tucking their stories out of sight behind paywalls and firewalls, behind layers of impersonal websites and corporate comms that lack content and impact. We sit courses on ‘data protection‘ and ‘data security‘, but never on ‘generosity‘ and ‘collaboration‘.

This is kind of odd because, unlike gold or silver, we can create more knowledge easily: we can literally print money, but only by using the knowledge that is out there already.

In the social age, knowledge itself is no longer power: your ability to synthesise meaning out of multiple sources, your ability to add value, to reinvent yourself and effect change, your generosity of time and expertise, these are the things that add value. These are the things that make you influential, that give you authority around a subject. It’s not about what you know and hide away, it’s about the conversations that you get into and how generous you are (and how willing you are to learn).

There’s movement within the scientific community, from public funded research, to share results widely and freely. The general feeling is that we’ve already paid for the work first time around by funding it from the tax coffers, so why should we have to pay again? It’s likely that, as the US follows the UK lead on this, there may be a delay of up to a year (allowing publishers to make some money from people who want the data early) before the data is fully released, but it’s a significant step in the right direction.

We are indoctrinated into the belief that we should hide things away, that we should only broadcast certain, carefully crafted and moderated, messages. We believe that information should be eked out, that it’s better if it’s rationed. But that’s not always true.

I came across a jar of ground ginger in my cupboard the other day which had a sell by date of 2006. Probably past it’s best, so i binned it. Knowledge doesn’t have a sell by date, but it may become less relevant as it ages. It’s certainly best served fresh, although it can mature nicely and be worth revisiting as it ferments. Some knowledge gains character and value as the years pass by.

Whether trivial or thoughtful, significant to us now, or only significant in retrospect, knowledge should be shared.

Social learning, social tools, the social way of working, this is valuable as it encourages us to share, to create shared meaning. Sure, it can be challenging: it requires us to be brave and to be willing to be proved wrong, but value emerges from the discussion, from the conversation. It’s all about the sharing.

And the more generous you are with your time, your knowledge, your expertise, the more it’s reciprocated. Value is created simply through generosity, through sharing. I tell you, it’s like printing money! As we engage further, connections emerge from the woodwork: connections that can be made in social learning spaces that would simply be lost in the ‘real’ world. With no barriers of geography, our potential to connect, to share on a global stage, is limitless!

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About Julian Stodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
This entry was posted in Authority, Collaboration, Community, Community of Practice, Connections, Control, Culture, Disclosure, Freedom, Global, Ideas, Knowledge, Meaning, Social Learning and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to There’s no point in knowledge if you don’t share it: collaboration and generosity in the social age

  1. julianstodd says:

    Reblogged this on "Exploring the world of social learning" and commented:

    Social learning communities are built upon generosity of spirit, on sharing

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  39. benoitdavid says:

    Very true… but one obstacle keeps popping up: many people seem to restrain themselves from sharing their ideas or views in case they… are wrong! One time I was told “I need to research it thoroughly BEFORE I post it… and my problem is that I don’t have time!”. Though I tried to explain that it could be presented as a conversation, thus debatable and ultimately retractable, it didn’t change that person’s mind. But it could also be because this person used this as an excuse and didn’t want to share in the first place… ;-)

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