Knowledge transfer and knowledge hiding

When it comes to Knowledge Management, one important issue is knowledge transfer. Knowledge is not much use to an organization if it is not shared within the organization (or even sometimes outside of an organization). Lucas (2005) suggests that “knowledge transfer involves asking employees to change the way they do things without any guarantees of success” (p. 88). This may seem difficult to pull off but the benefits are enormous.

In order to transfer knowledge in organizations, employees need to be motivated in order to transfer that knowledge. According to Connelly et al. (2012), some factors that contribute to knowledge sharing are incentives, fairness, psychological contract maintenance, and a knowledge sharing climate (p. 65).     Connelly et al (2012) talk about the role of knowledge hiding and how it affects knowledge transfer.  According to them, knowledge hiding “represents an intentional concealment of knowledge requested by another” (Connellly et al, 2012, p. 66).  That knowledge hiding is intentional is important. If knowledge is not shared because of an accident or some unintentional mistake (or something like that), it is not knowledge hiding. I found it interesting that their first goal was “to verify the existence of knowledge hiding in organizations and to establish a preliminary link between distrust and knowledge hiding intentions” (p. 69).I realize the need to verify things and do research to prove it, however, anyone who has worked in an organization (which is most, if not all, of people) knows that knowledge hiding exists. We may not necessarily know what to call it or see how it affects an organization, but we know it is there. I have read a few articles on knowledge transfer, so it was interesting to read about a topic close to knowledge transfer that is not knowledge transfer (I know that does not make too much sense but that’s what I got lol). I must admit when I think of knowledge hiding I consider it to be a “bad” thing that is not good for an organization. However, they suggest that it is not always a bad thing. To be honest, I probably participate in knowledge hiding in my job sometimes.  They state that “it may be difficult for employees to provide a reasonable rationale for hiding knowledge that is task-related (e.g. how do I do this task) so they may instead try to avoid responding” (Connellly et al, 2012, p. 80).  I am sure that most people do this at some point in their lives, even if it is just once. While it is not necessarily a bad thing, it is important for managers (and the like) to “emphasize a shared identity and not offer incentives for employees to ‘betray’ their coworkers” (Connellly et al, 2012, p. 84).

One issue that all the articles talked about in this blog post discussed was the impact of trust on knowledge transfer and knowledge hiding. Ibrahim and Allen (2012) discuss the impact of trust during major incidents, specifically from the oil industry. Oil rigs are typically in remote areas and help may take a long time to reach them. Trust is essential in those situations especially because the crew on the oil rigs are often have to respond to a crisis right away. “The action of explicitly sharing information in a certain way, by invoking trust, helps remind team members of the overriding motive of the activity” (Ibrahim and Allen, 2012, p. 1926). Trust helps improve information sharing (also knowledge sharing) because if we trust someone, we are more likely to share information with them.  Lucas (2005) discusses trust and reputation when it comes to knowledge transfer. Trust and reputation are not the same thing as “we may trust someone to be nice to us, but that has nothing to do with their reputation. We may also be forced to trust someone, although he/she has a bad reputation” (Lucas, 2005, p. 88). One of my favorite quotes from Lucas (2005) is “Access to information does not guarantee its use. There must be some other basis upon which trust is developed.” (p. 97). There is a lot of information and knowledge available but that does not mean people will make use of it. Trust must be developed through other things beside the availability of information. Kamrynwies talks about trust in regards to group projects. That’s a place where trust is important part of whether information is shared or not.

Knowledge transfer is important to organizations (well, not just organizations). It involves a shift in how employees think about knowledge and how they are asked to work in their roles. I like that Lucas talks about making employees realize that there is room for error as long as the overall organization is successful. Errors are not always terrible things and being free to complete errors (at least those that won’t hinder an organization’s success) may help knowledge transfer.


8 thoughts on “Knowledge transfer and knowledge hiding

  1. Something to consider — when good information is available and not used — then it becomes, in part, an information retrieval issue — or an information seeking issue. It’s all connected!!


  2. Pingback: Factors in Knowledge Transfer Failure – rhmaxsonlis658

    • I agree. There is a lack of a culture of learning in a lot of organizations. Society tells us we need to be perfect and get everything right all the time but in reality, and like Lucas talks about, learning from failure can be just as important as success.


  3. Pingback: We Built this City… On Knowledge Management? | rhugenwrites

  4. Pingback: Back to the Basics: Knowledge, Sharing, and Hiding | Mary's Blog

  5. There is another line of thinking that is beginning to emerge though, and that’s one where failure can lead to great things. I always felt that this was important because if you fail, there’s still more to learn and to grow from it.


  6. Pingback: Knowledge, Risk, & Trust | hereticalpoetical

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