Why would you want to share information, not hoard it? In today’s cutthroat business environment, isn’t exclusive knowledge synonymous with power — and the ability to make money?
Well, if you’re a stock trader or house flipper, maybe. But I’m a consultant who has long subscribed to Jerry Weinberg’s Seventh Law of Marketing: “Give away your best ideas” and Credit Rule: “You’ll never accomplish anything if you care who gets the credit”, from his invaluable book The Secrets of Consulting. (More of Jerry’s pearls of wisdom can be found here.)
Skeptical? Well, here’s an alternative historical perspective from a completely different source, a 1926 article about the New York Club of Printing House Craftsmen, uncovered by Jeff Jarvis and described as “…a lovely evocation on the value of sharing in our field, which we used to call printing.”
“Stop. Stop the presses.”
I’ll let quotes from Jeff’s blog post tell the tale:
“‘The times are not so far distant when every foreman or executive jealously guarded his technical ‘secrets’, in the mistaken idea that by doing so he would make himself indispensable to his employer,’ Fuhrmann writes…
‘And the men [sic*] who had the same or similar problems to meet in the actual running of their employers’ businesses found that an exchange of views and ideas benefitted them without hurting their employers.'”
“And so, we attempt the same today in our rapidly changing field with meetings and communities of practice and training of journalists and managers.”
“Along this journey — which I believe will be long, generations or even centuries long — we need to provide the means to bring together these brave new leaders not just to teach them what we know (so they may challenge it) but also to enable them to teach each other, to share.”
—Jeff Jarvis, Stop. Stop the presses.
This is a touching, century-old example of how communities of practice benefit from sharing information.
Share information; don’t hoard it
During my decades as a consultant I’ve followed Jerry’s advice about giving away your ideas. (As I’ve been doing in this blog for ten years now.) As he explains:
“I do everything possible to encourage my clients to take over the work I’ve been doing. They usually give me direct credit, but even if they don’t, they love me for my generosity. This increases the chance they’ll give me future business, or recommend me to others.”
—Gerald M. Weinberg, Chapter 11, The Secrets of Consulting
Finally, as a meeting designer I’m convinced that using meeting formats that facilitate and support sharing amongst peers of relevant information is one of the most powerful ways to improve the effectiveness of meetings.
Share information; don’t hoard it. Whether you’re a community of practice, a consultant, or a meeting designer, this simple aphorism applies!
Image attribution: Flickr user ben_grey