The Seven Deadly Sins of Knowledge Sharing in Networks

On 16th July, I was fortunate enough to take part in this webinar organised by NHS England’s Sustainable Improvement Team and Source4Networks, which posed the  following questions:

  • What are the barriers to sharing knowledge across your networks?
  • How can we learn from others to apply this knowledge to the NHS?

Chris Collison, author and expert in networks and knowledge management, was on hand to guide us through some of these critical barriers, namely the seven deadly sins – or syndromes – that can affect networks and stifle the supply or demand for knowledge sharing.

1) Tall Poppy Syndrome – Based on the idea that the tallest poppy in a field is the first to get cut down to size, this syndrome illustrates a reluctance to put your head above the parapet and a tendency to keep a low profile and not get involved.

2) Shrinking Violet Syndrome – Another “sin” that stifles the supply of shared knowledge in a network, based on a feeling of false humility, and that you have nothing useful to share.

3) Not-Invented-Here Syndrome – This syndrome impacts the demand for knowledge
sharing; the view that your organisation or team has a unique set of problems that can’t be
fixed by adopting other people’s solutions. Besides (the thinking goes) why use someone
else’s solutions when you can gain kudos for inventing your own?

4) Tom Tom Syndrome – Also known as Real-Men-Don’t-Ask-For-Directions Syndrome. A
reluctance to ask for help when you’re lost, due to a fear of being seen to be incompetent.
This “muddling along” approach is another barrier that stifles knowledge sharing by reducing demand.

5) Lacknowledgement Syndrome – The perception that by sharing good practice there is
somehow a “lack of acknowledgement”, and a suspicion that someone else will take the
credit for your hard work.

6) Lock-it-Away Syndrome – Here, a potential solution, idea or example of good practice is
not shared, either because it is never quite finished, or because everything produced by the organisation or team is locked down by default due to security policies.

7) Hamster-on-the-Wheel Syndrome – This “sin” comes down to time – or lack of it. A feeling that you’re just too busy going round in circles to stop and share what you’re doing.

A quick webinar poll indicated that this last “sin” was particularly prevalent, and something that most of the attendees were familiar with, but we all recognised the various other syndromes as well. Chris went on to suggest some antidotes, such as:

  • Make it safe to share
  • Think about use of language – e.g. looking for “answers” can place an unintended
    burden on people
  • Establish what “good” looks like, so the network has a frame of reference – e.g. using
    a maturity model for an agreed scale of good practice
  • Make it easier for people to ask for help – e.g. awards for things like:
    o Transferring good practice
    o Re-using a solution
    o Embedding a good practice
  • Share failures as well as successes
  • Acknowledge everything – where it came from etc.
  • Check what security policies actually say about sharing information outside the
    organisation
  • Legitimise the time spent sharing knowledge, e.g.
    o Establish a network sponsor
    o Find and share stories of things that worked

From my experience, we already have many of these antidotes in place in our LKS network in the South, but we all interact with networks at an organisational or directorate level, and personally I recognised quite a few of these deadly syndromes. I found the webinar
extremely illuminating,engaging and motivating.

For anyone interested in viewing the recorded webinar, you can find it here. For those of you who would like to dig a bit deeper, both Chris Collison’s and Source4Networks’ websites and twitter details are below:

Chris Collison: www.chriscollison.com / @chris_collison
Source4Networks: https://www.source4networks.org.uk/ / @source4networks

Andrew Brown
Library Services Manager
Wexham Park Hospital (WXM)

This article was first published in Swimming Pool, Issue 109, August 2018, p.7-10

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