Learning to Fly; Why people don’t share knowledge

18-May-06 Archive of Weekly KM Blog by Stan Garfield

KM Books

Learning to Fly: Practical Knowledge Management from Leading and Learning Organizations by Chris Collison and Geoff Parcell

Today, no one is, nor can be, an expert in everything. In every challenge, it is easy to feel that you don’t know enough to keep up with the accelerating pace of change inside our organisations, let alone the world outside. Start with the assumption that somebody somewhere has already done what you are trying to do. How can you find out whom, and learn from them? Learning to Fly shows exactly how to put knowledge management theory into practice, sharing the tools used and the experience and insights gained by two leading practitioners.

Completely updated for the second edition, Learning to Fly shares the authors’ experiences from BP and other leading knowledge organisations. and incorporates new material on implementation and best practice, including a CD-ROM with KM tools and exercises.

Table of Contents


  • Setting the Context
  • What is Knowledge Management?
  • The Holistic Model — It’s More Than the Sum of the Parts
  • Getting the Environment Right
  • Getting Started — Just Do It


  • Connecting Sharers with Learners — Using Self-Assessment
  • Learning From Your Peers — Somebody Has Already Done It
  • Learning Whilst Doing — Time to Reflect
  • Learning After Doing — When it’s All Over
  • Finding the Right People — If Only I Knew Who
  • Networking and Communities of Practice
  • Leveraging What We Have Learned — Capturing Knowledge


  • Embedding it in the Organization — Preparing To Let Go
  • Review of the Book — What Did We Set Out To Do?

KM Links

Learning to Fly Web Sites

  • Learning to Fly: Join the Learning to Fly Community — Join a virtual community of fellow-readers and knowledge management practitioners — some starting their journey, others with more experience and insights to offer.
  • Knowledgeable LtdChris Collison: Knowledge Management & Organisational Learning, Change Management, Organisational Capability Development
  • practical KMGeoff Parcell: learning before during and after everything we do — Building capacity in Knowledge Management, Change management, Productivity improvement through teamwork, Consultancy and coaching, Organisational Capability, Self assessment

KM Questions

Q: What is the root cause for why people do NOT do more knowledge sharing?

A: Melcrum’s Knowledge Management Review May/June 2006 Volume 9 Issue 2 contains an article I wrote which answers this question. 10 reasons why people don’t share their knowledge presents a solution for each. Here are five basic reasons:

  1. Don’t know why: They don’t think they need to spend time on knowledge sharing. Solution: Set specific knowledge-sharing goals for employees and communicate them repeatedly through many different channels.
  2. Don’t know how: They are unclear about how and where to share their knowledge. Solution: Develop, deliver, and make available on-demand training and communications which make it clear how to share knowledge, including links to the relevant tools and systems.
  3. Don’t have time: They think they have no time for knowledge sharing. Solution: Embed knowledge-sharing into the basic work and processes of your organization so that it is not viewed as a separate task which can be avoided.
  4. Don’t trust others: They are worried that sharing their knowledge will allow other people to be rewarded without giving credit or something in return, or result in the misuse that knowledge. Solution: Reward people on team goals, and nurture communities within the organization to create an environment of trust.
  5. Think that knowledge is power: They hoard their knowledge waiting for someone to beg them for it, treat them like a guru, or give them something in return. Solution: Recognize, reward, and promote those who share their knowledge, while denying promotions to those who fail to do so.

Jack Vinson recently blogged on this subject. His blog entry Knowledge hiding between co-workers linked to Co-workers hoard their best ideas: Silence not sharing is the norm, McMaster research finds. That article contained the following points:

Why people engage in knowledge hiding:

  1. they feel that an injustice has been done to them
  2. they are distrustful of co-workers or management
  3. they are retaliating against someone else’s behavior toward them
  4. the organizational climate encourages secrecy, not sharing
  5. they can get away with it

How to encourage knowledge sharing:

  1. emphasize positive relationships and trust among employees
  2. explain the mutual benefits of having colleagues share their knowledge
  3. treat all workers fairly and respectfully
  4. make knowledge sharing part of the culture

Written by

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager https://sites.google.com/site/stangarfield/

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