Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The power of knowledge sharing

Five or six years ago I visited LearnTec in Karlsruhe. There is still one presentation that comes to my mind when I reflect on what was being presented over there. It was a presentation about the power of knowledge sharing as a key factor in future competition. Basically the presentator argued that a key factor for successful entrepreneurship is the ability to share knowledge instead of keeping it to yourself. The paradigm is no longer 'the power of knowledge' but the power of knowledge sharing.
Looking at the current situation in educational organisations there is still a lot of hesitation (or even resistance) towards sharing knowledge with others (colleagues or not). This is probably one of the major problems why collaborative content projects have so much trouble in letting people make contributions. But why? MIT already gave access to a lot of learning content years ago. Working together and providing feedback can help the originator of the content to improve it to a next version, hopefully a better version. Wikipedia shows that shared contributions can lead to quality content. The networked organisation and more specifically the networked employee has (virtual) access to a lot of knowledge and experiences compared to those who act in an isolated way. This external knowledge can often help or speed up your own process of knowledge achievement. In a more confronting way I would like to argue that most content is developed during working time, which makes it rather strange that people attach a sort of personal copyright to things they have created. A lot of organisations even state that all content/products that are being produced are automatically owned by the employer and not the employee. Sometimes even for things you create outside working hours. For the latter situation I believe there is a difference between work related productions and things you produce in a completely different context. In my situation it seems clear that content I produce for the website of my Taekwondo school does not belong to the university I work for.

Of course there are clear exceptions that can be used to argue against the free sharing of knowledge and content. For example, when you're working on getting a patent on a certain product it is obvious that you don't want your confident information to be on the internet. Another example is a research paper that is expected to be a major breakthrough in your line of expertise.

As a concluding statement I believe the default paradigm should shift from "closed unless" to "open unless".

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