To Trust or Not to Trust: Organisations’ Dilemma in Facilitating Knowledge Sharing

By Stefan Fothe.

Published by The Organization Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Knowledge from colleagues’ experiences can be a valuable reference and model for one’s own expertise. Therefore, successful knowledge sharing requires openness and authenticity of exchanging practitioners. Seen from this point of view, organisations ought to facilitate a completely autonomous exchange among colleagues. However, organisations’ decisions about the level of autonomy are not only based on pedagogical potentials but also on risks. In this paper it is argued that knowledge sharing is risky for organisations since they can neither rule out the existence of bad practice nor its mislabelling as good practice. Thus, organisations asking for good practice may hear bad practice. This is not acceptable within an officially facilitated process. Organisations have
to step in. Control, as the prerequisite for stepping in, however, endangers knowledge sharing’s general climate and thus the originally desired pedagogical potentials. Organisations face a dilemma of trust and control. While trust serves the original goals (getting reference and models), control is focused on the prevention of the circulation of bad practice. Both appear mutually exclusive. However, any organisation has to take a position here. This paper introduces a fundamental problem of knowledge sharing that has been largely overlooked. Organisations do not facilitate knowledge sharing until a satisfactory solution is provided. Accordingly, promotion of knowledge sharing approaches ought to be centred on organisations’ calculation of benefits and risks. Their scepticism is understandable and ought to be taken seriously. Different coping strategies are presented as well as a short report about a project within a social work context.

Keywords: Knowledge Sharing, Good Practice, Process Ownership

International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management, Volume 8, Issue 11, pp.63-72. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 602.239KB).

Stefan Fothe

PhD Student, Department for Vocational and Business Education, University of Linz, Jena, Austria

Dr. Stefan Fothe is research and teaching fellow at the Department for Vocational and Business Education and Training at the University of Linz, Austria. The paper reports of a project he had undertaken as PhD student at the Institute for Vocational Education at the University of Jena, Germany.

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