Pride as a KM disincentive/incentive

Pride is an interesting motivator in Knowledge Management. In some cases it acts as a real dis-incentive, but if harnessed well it can be a powerful driver for KM behaviours.

Proud Lion from Public Domain Pictures

I was reflecting on this recently while running one of our powerful Bird Island exercises.

People start this exercise by building a structure from bricks and sticks and rubber bands. They work in isolated teams, and have no knowledge of the task before they start. They create relatively small structures, but are inordinately proud of them.

After a while, we get the teams to share knowledge with one another. They send one member out of the door to go and interact with another team, and very often they have a little discussion about how open the team member should be with the others. Last week, one team actually suggested to their envoy that if the other team’s structure was smaller, they should give misinformation, rather than share knowledge with them. They were proud of their success, and did not want to share it.

This is the negative side of pride. If people are proud of their work they may be unlikely to want to change it, to learn from others, or even to share with others that they see as competitors. Pride is part of what drives “not invented here” and knowledge hoarding.

Wounded pride.

What happened to many of the teams was that they found that the other teams’ structure was much taller, and that theirs looked like a midget in comparison. Now their pride was dented, they realised that their performance was mediocre, and that they had a lot to learn.

When we got the team together in a group and showed them current best practice, their pride was dented even more. Even the best of their structures was less than half the height of the current world record. And sure enough, when we built the structures again, everyone was liberally copying from the “best practice”. There as no evidence of the “Not Invented Here” syndrome.

That’s because wounded pride kills “not invented here”. You cannot proudly continue to reject knowledge from other people who are performing far better than you are.

People want to do a good job, they want to be among the leaders, and if they find that their current approach gives results that are bottom quartile they will not defend their approach, they will not display NiH, but will look for knowledge from any source they can, to restore Great Performance. I remember one drilling crew on the Gulf of Mexico, whose motivation to learn was to be “the best darned drill crew in the Gulf” and who approached KM with great enthusiasm.

You need to remove the false pride in local (substandard) performance and harness the motivation of “proud to be the best” in driving people towards learning and sharing.

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Shared by: Nick Milton

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