Organizational Learning & Knowledge Management LO23959

From: Mark W. McElroy (
Date: 02/11/00

Replying to LO23937 --

"Presser, Dennis" wrote:

> Knowledge is like love, then: it is infinite, and sharing it with others
> does not reduce the one who shares.

Dennis, if only it were true. Strictly speaking, of course, you're right,
but in most corporations today, the knowledge created by individuals is
officially seized by their employers thanks to the intellectual property
agreements most are forced to sign. Forty-eight hours after joining IBM I
was forced to sign such an agreement which conferred all rights to
knowledge I might create to them (IBM) during the course of my employment.
Unless I did so, I was told, I would be fired. This, even though the
employment agreement between us is balanced, is the way things are done at
IBM and elsewhere. Somehow, the Mark McElroy side of the bilateral
agreement we reached is worth less than the IBM side when it comes to who
owns title to knowledge we MUTUALLY create, or even that ONLY I create!

I don't mean to pick solely on IBM. I condemn all such agreements foisted
upon employees by any corporation. I further contend that all such
one-sided agreements do nothing but instill ill will in the minds of
employees who fall prey to them; organizational learning suffers
accordingly. Why should I devote my best efforts to producing the next
fruitful innovation if my employer does nothing but take it from me
immediately afterwards? These are the politics of knowledge-making in the
modern corporation. To me, this is the conversation we should be having
around this topic -- reforming the politics of knowledge-making in the
modern corporation.

So, yes, when you share knowledge with others you still have it. But when
you share it with your employer, you might as well forget it, because if
you ever use it without their permission, they'll sue you with the full
force and support of the law. A pleasant thought, isn't it?



"Mark W. McElroy" <>

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