William Shakespeare - "Love all, trust a few. Do wrong to none."
What a wise attitude towards life, this is! :) I can't help but make an observation on the implications of this (the first part of the quote) on organizational culture - as seen from the perspective of KM.
In KM, we talk of the need for people to trust each other because, it is only then that they can then share and learn from each other. I’ve more often than not reacted to that statement by thinking that one has to indeed start by trusting everyone but it is not easy to trust absolutely everyone in the long run. (There are different types of trust-levels that need to be considered and in the context of KM, we are talking of trusting that the other person will not misuse the knowledge, will not take undue credit for it, will not leak it out to un-trusted entities, and sometimes we even trust that he will return the favour in one way or the other) Whether we admit it or not, there are both good and evil elements in life…and in organizations. It is better to understand and accept that there will be people who don’t deserve to be trusted. But it need not prevent us from sharing knowledge provided we do it with a little bit of caution that the situation deserves. It is hard but possible to love all while trusting just a few. That is, the second category is a subset of the first. Sharing accompanies love. Sharing is NOT necessarily = Love+Trust. You can extend love to a person and share knowledge with him but you may still not trust him completely. Love is to simply understand that we all have our strengths and weaknesses and forgive us our weaknesses. Trust is to be aware that the person has no weaknesses that can cause harm in a given context. I think that if we trust someone we will not only share whole heartedly but also be ready to learn from him/her and somewhere believe that the person will help you in return when you need him.
Which brings to my mind another term - Respect. What is respect and how is it related to sharing, love and trust? I think respect is not necessarily related to sharing if we consider that sharing is more connected with love. But the degree of interest in learning from someone you respect would be on the higher side. Respect is however strongly related to trust. When someone proves you’ve done right by trusting him, by manifesting it in the deeds he does, he naturally commands respect from you. With such respect comes more trust and more love. Relationships are perhaps most enjoyable when there’s mutual love, sharing, trust and respect in it. I am stating the obvious! But if it’s true that the obvious is often overlooked, it is worth being stated time and again!
Coming back to the implications for KM, next time one wants people to share knowledge, I think one needs to usher in a culture where there is love – love for humankind and love for the organization. Love will encourage people to be trustworthy.