Knowledge Sharing in a Non-Hiring World

July 28, 2009

A young professional, unless you ask them, doesn’t know everything.  Well I certainly don’t.  So we learn in the workplace by reading manuals, trial and error (see my last post) but probably mainly by talking to your colleagues.  Being new to an area, you need to learn from the collective experience of those around you.  This includes the inside tips, the little tricks and the things that are just too hard to write down in a manual.

But what happens when the person who is teaching you feels their very lively hood is under threat.  US figures point to mass layoffs, similarly in Australia and Europe.  Does someone who thinks that their job may be whisked out from under them really want to tell you everything they know?  No, of course not.  As soon as their unique intellectual property is taken away, the competative advantage of this experienced employee is reduced.

So how does a young professional combat this?  Well I think there are a few ways.  Obviously there are many others.

  1. Ask specific questions, rather than general queries.  “Once I’ve applied this rate, how to I calculate it out for the remaining fields?” instead of “How do I get the answer?”
  2. Grab the current manual/notes/pieces of collected paper and start to make your small additions.  You could get points clarified by your colleague.
  3. Show them the benefits of teaching you.  You may be freeing them up for more value-adding tasks or you may be actually firming up their knowledge, by challenging points they make to you.

Learning from those around you is really important but can be very difficult.  But don’t give up when trying to get ‘blood from the stone.’  Use your managers, be persistant (but not annoying!) and try different methods.  One day you’ll be the one with all the knowledge.  Just remember to share it back!

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