Sharing what you know or sources of power

by daniel on December 10, 2008

I keep sharing my knowledge, making it available to anyone because, to my opinion, keeping valuable information is not a good source of power

While studying my MBA I took a course in management of human resources. This course was very enlightening because it connected pieces of experience and little knowledge I had, and merged it into real methodical information that could be used for analysis.

One of the main issues discussed was the source of power: (here is a broader reference)

  • Formal power – i.e. authority: title, position, company hierarchy
  • Informal power: control of resources, knowledge, and leadership.

Formal power is part of the organization, where each organization handles it differently. Informal power is more fluid, but is more valuable because they can provide better cooperation from the motivated workers. I found out that people get attracted to knowledge, but the way its shared affect how it’s received.  Information is seen a source of power, but information can get old and outdated thus becoming obsolete and using information as a source of power is a bit of an illusion. In addition people don’t like to depend and don’t like being given only part of the information.

An alternative is to provide the full information, disclosing the guidelines and reasons, trying to give a full view of the question. This in turn has two benefits:

  • Since you can provide reasoning, people can see you as someone who can helpful in analysis of difficult issues and thus be some kind of “guru”.
  • Being positive and providing the information creates a better atmosphere for sharing in both directions.

In the current development cycle I embrace this method with a twist. The twist is sharing enough information but not to overload or ask too much dedication from the developers. This is in coordination with the job description: developers code so they need to understand the details of the coding. In contrast, the system engineer sees the full system and coordinates between groups. This is really a situation of win-win, where sharing the knowledge makes you stronger.

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