Corporate knowledge sharing is a critical component of modern knowledge management (KM) because it facilitates new knowledge creation leading to innovations essential to the survival of modern organizations (Gurteen, 1999). However, knowledge sharing is a human issue, and it is people who determine and choose whether or not to share their knowledge willingly (Wheatley, 2001). In reality, there are a number of challenging barriers to employees’ willingness to share knowledge within an organization. These barriers include lack of time, not knowing the value of knowledge, lack of trust, lack of motivation, and belief in the power of knowledge hoarding. Skyrme (2002) believed that lack of time is probably the most common reason given by people in organizations for not sharing their knowledge. According to Skyrme, it is difficult for employees in modern organizations to find time for knowledge sharing because they are often multitasking and pressured by productivity demands and deadlines. To solve this problem, organizations should establish knowledge sharing as a top priority and give employees adequate time and freedom for knowledge sharing and exchange. McElroy (2003) suggested that organizational policies should allow individuals certain extent of freedom to pursue their own ideas and learning agendas and to self-organize into knowledge groups and communities. As an example, Google successfully implemented and benefited from its policy of allowing and paying staff to pursue their own ideas freely during 20% of their work time and encouraging individuals and teams to share details of their projects within the organization (Machlis, 2009).
Another reason why employees do not share their knowledge is that they have not realized how useful and valuable their particular knowledge is to others (Skyrme, 2002). Some individuals, especially those in lower ranks of a team, often underestimate their experience and intellect and feel having nothing valuable to contribute to the team (Goman, 2002). To help overcome this barrier, Goman suggested that managers and team leaders, while encouraging group collaboration and sharing of mistakes and lessons learned, should openly recognize and emphasize individual strengths to make everyone feel valued and respected. Goman also indicated that team leaders should encourage and respect everyone’s contribution and help all members recognize what each of them can bring to the team. Lack of trust is a major barrier to knowledge sharing within an organization. An organizational culture based on trust is essential to a positive environment for organizational learning and knowledge-sharing. Naturally, people will not share their experience and know-how with others they do not know well or trust. Davenport and Prusak (1998) stated that knowledge initiatives will fail without visible, reciprocal, and ubiquitous trust in an organization. To build an organizational culture of collaboration based on trust, Goman (2002) suggested that giving people enough time to develop trusting relationships by learning and adapting to each other’s strengths and weaknesses. DeSouza (2003) also proposed a humanistic approach of developing trusting relationships among members of an organization for sharing their know-how through informal and entertaining activities, interactions, and dialogues. Nenonen, Jensen, and Lindahl (2014) proposed the knowledge mapping approach to identify the knowledge gaps and needs to improve knowledge sharing and knowledge flow.
Lack of motivation is another factor that discourages knowledge sharing. The motivation for people to share knowledge is critical to the success of KM implementations (Davenport, De Long, & Beers, 1998). Davenport et al. emphasized that effective motivational incentives and practices should not be trivial but long-term and tied in with the performance evaluation and compensation structure. To participate in knowledge sharing willingly, employees should expect rewarding and positive consequences without fear for any negative consequences. Goman (2002) suggested that employees should never be ridiculed, criticized, threatened, or punished for their insights and opinions. Instead, as Garfield (2006) proposed, organizations should implement rewards and recognition programs for those who share their knowledge. Knowledge hoarding is the opposite of knowledge sharing and certainly an obstacle to any knowledge sharing initiative. Some knowledge owners keep themselves out of the knowledge sharing process because they believe in the power of knowledge and the greater benefit of hoarding it than sharing it in a competitive environment (Davenport & Prusak, 1998). Davenport and Prusak considered knowledge hoarding as a realistic challenge for KM initiatives and suggested rewarding knowledge sharing more than knowledge hoarding. In addition to rewarding and motivating employees for knowledge sharing, organizations should educate employees on the transparency and collaboration requirements for knowledge work. Tapscott (2003) concluded that all three categories of modern knowledge work (i.e. procedural, heuristic, and executive), require internal transparency and visibility of processes and operations, which means that employees have to share unprecedented amounts of knowledge to work effectively. The study by Oye, Salleh, and Moorminshah (2011) found that the need and pace for innovation and knowledge sharing may vary from industry to industry and concluded that “technology plays a critical role in creating, storing and distributing explicit knowledge in an accessible and expeditious manner” (p.81). A good example is the Teaching Factory paradigm using distance-learning knowledge delivery technology proposed by Chryssolouris, Mavrikios, and Mourtzis (2013).
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