I was introspecting on the fact that in KM circles Trust is always spoken about as a pre-requisite for KM to be sustained. It is an absolutely essential ingredient for KM because the foundational behaviours of KM like knowledge sharing, mentoring, collaboration, questioning, seeking expert advice etc will not work unless it is built on a foundation** of mutual trust. That’s obvious, isn’t it? No one is going to challenge the logic. But let’s look at what happens in practice. Do we live in an ideal world where everyone trusts everyone else? Of course, not! Leave alone the intentions of people being suspect, even amongst those who harbour only positive intentions, trusting doesn’t come easy because to be able to trust people, you need to understand them very well and have faith in them and that’s extremely difficult as everyone is unique and views the world through her personal filter that isn’t visible to most others. Moreover, even if one were to understand others due to a long association, trusting someone who has a different approach to life is not easy. How will a straight-thinking person for example trust someone who is the calculating type? How will an ambitious person trust a conservative, careful and cautious person? How will a relationship-centric person trust a task-centric person?
One of the most critical requirements according to me would therefore be the need for everyone to first learn to respect each other and their contribution and be open to consider their worth despite differences in beliefs and values. In addition, one needs to be big-hearted enough to put aside negative qualities in others (for no one is perfect) and difference of opinions. There can never be an environment of complete trust, for even differentiating between the genuine and the fictitious is not easy to most people. Everything is first looked at with a suspecting eye in this world full of selfishness, hatred, greed, anger, jealousy, corruption, etc. Therefore, even before one can trust another it is necessary to learn to respect each other despite such negative qualities for everyone has her weaknesses. The idea ought to be to improve ourselves, get to be a better human being, learn from others, teach others by example, respect each other, leverage on the strengths and positives of each other and slowly but steadily convert the relationship into a positively synergistic one. **In the process of building such a relationship (be it a family, team, organization etc) respect ought to be used as the bricks and trust as the cement that takes its time to hold the bricks together but once set, is not easily shaken. So, in the analogy to the building industry, trust may not really be the foundation itself but the cementing force that is built on a foundation of bricks of respect.
Well, to conclude, it’s not just in KM but everywhere else too - respect for each other can be the panacea for many problems that the world faces today. It is not easy but as many religious philosophies point out, if one succeeds in firmly believing that every living being is a form of God and has an infinite potential to be ‘good’, anything is possible. Like in management philosophy, respecting someone and reposing complete faith in the person is perhaps the only sustainable method to work wonders in the long-run if not in the short-run. KM is indeed rooted in philosophy and human nature more than anything else.
Note: If one were to believe that only those who have mastered something ought to advice others on the same, this post needs to be trashed. I myself am making a conscious effort to first respect and understand others. I’ve got to admit that I still have a long way to go…respecting people who clearly have the character/intellect/talent/charisma etc is very easy, but it is difficult to respect people who are generally obnoxious/don’t make an effort to understand others/trample over others etc! (I don’t even want to list the different negative characters that I can’t stand…feels allergic :-))