Trust & Openness in Organisations LO21994

Caroline Simard (
Fri, 25 Jun 1999 08:48:55 -0700

Replying to LO21977 -- wrote:

> My own observations suggest that trust is a critical component of
> successful knowledge management and essential to nurture knowledge
> communities. It takes time and consistency, often scarce items in today?s
> corporate world.
> To offer a current and real life illustration from my own organisation; we
> are currently designing a peer to peer system to help people identify who
> has expertise, knowledge, experience to help them. Quite literally, who
> has done this before, how, where, what were the lessons learned, etc. In
> other words how do I learn from best practice and avoid re-inventing the
> wheel?
> So I am left to consider how emotional an issue this is, But with the
> fundamental belief that the ONLY way to proceed is through openness.


I am a grad student and therefore have no professional experience in
knowledge management, but I am very interested in the topic. A very big
problem in organizations today is to identify manage tacit knowledge, the
one that resides in the heads of individuals. I think that your approach
fostering trust and openess is the only way to go. Also, people have to
be rewarded for sharing information. The big question you are left with
is how do you measure the value of the information people contributed?
Maybe intrinsic rewards are the best approach: if trust is high employees
can have a sense of contributing to the greater value of the organization
without the necessity of monetary incentives. I'd like to share with you
the insights from an article by Devenport, Eccles & Prusak (1996) who
describe various models of information politics:

1. technocratic utopianism: information management is based on a belief
that technology is the ultimate solution.
2. Anarchy: the absence of an information management policy altogether
where employees are left to "fend for themselves"
3. Feudalism: Individual business units manage their own information
4. Monarchy: all information reporting structures are defined by the
firm's leaders, who may or may not share the information once they have
5. Federalism: information management based on consensus and

According to their article, monarchy and federalism are the only effective
information management structures, and federalism, which is based on trust
building, is the way to go to foster learning and operate in a competitive
and dynamic environment. This article also provides recommendations on
how to select and implement the right model:

1. Select an information state: see what model of information politics
is currently in place and which is the desired model and how to achieve
2. Match information politics to your organizational culture
3. Avoid building information empires.

Reference: Davenport, T.H., Eccles, R.G. & Prusak, L. (1996).
Information politics. In E. Auster & C.W. Choo (Eds), Managing
information for the competitive edge, New York: Neal-Schuman.

Another good source of insight would be prof. Nosh Contractor at
University of Illinois, who has done extensive work on knowledge networks
and on tools to manage "who knows who knows what". He might be able to
pinpoint companies who have successfully delt with this issue and tools
for knowledge management.

I am certainly interested in reading about what others have to say on this

Caroline Simard
Ph.D. student, Stanford University


Caroline Simard <>

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Managing Information for the Competitive Edge by Ethel Auster (Editor), Chun Wei Choo (Editor) $82.50


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