Are We Sharing Too Much?

Today I had a good day despite not winning last night’s $100 million lottery or picking the winning horse at the Melbourne Cup (the race that stops our nation).  I met a Twitter follower and made a new friend one who shares the same passion and the same frustrations in Learning and Development.

In my books, that’s a win.

Jasmine is a Learning and Development manager of a corporate and connected with me to discuss the instructional coaching model that I had mentioned in previous posts.  It was an opportunity to chat about our respective organisations, our shared interest in learning and development and question its future.  We also shared our thoughts on social learning, how Twitter and establishing a Personal Learning Network (PLN) has developed us to a whole new different level and the challenges we face trying to get people to come on the same journey with us.

When it came to the subject of sharing, Jasmine mentioned something thought provoking.

She was asked by someone close to her, “But why would Helen share what she knows with you when she doesn’t know who you are?”  Jasmine said that in the spirit of collaboration and sharing, it’s like a ‘pay it forward’ aspect where there’s a level of trust between people to share information and knowledge in the spirit that it was meant to be.  In so doing, it opens the door for a future exchange and open collaboration.

Of course, there will be people who will not do this or who will claim your idea as theirs but do we stop sharing because of the few, or do we open up a whole new world where people can talk, share and collaborate?

I definitely believe the latter.

Some years ago, I was discussing this with my father who adamantly exclaimed that I must never share my knowledge to anyone, at anytime.  That my “knowledge is my power” and that if I start giving away, I may as well let people walk all over me. The moment I share my knowledge, is the moment that I give the power back to the company to fire me at anytime.   At the time, it took me aback.  So much so that for a time, I did keep things to myself.  I was mindful of what I said and shared but I don’t know how much of it was a fear out of displeasing my father, or actually believing what he said to be true.

Around the same time, I was working with a small team of sales guys who had the same philosophy.  Any sharing of information or customer leads meant that the other guy was going to get in their territory and possibly, close a deal that could have been theirs.

Although I found this irritating, I also found it to be a lonely existence for all of our team.  A sea of individuals, working for the same company but each wrapped up in their own world fiercely guarding what they knew for fear of being taken advantage.

But I wanted to contribute to conversations!  I wanted to share the problem solving with my colleagues!  I wanted to jump in and provide creative learning solutions!  I was hungry for knowledge and eager to learn but there was something that kept me from taking the initiative or disrupting the status quo or worse, following someone else’s idea that was obviously wrong but I was too scared to say anything.  My overall feeling however was that I not only felt bored but worse – I felt disconnected from others.

Keeping information made me an observer on the sidelines and that wasn’t where I wanted to be.

Worse still, I was becoming cynical and negative didn’t realise that my own close mindedness to sharing meant that I was denying myself the very thing that as an L&D person I was espousing – to learn and grow!

So I had a mindset change and threw caution in the wind.  If a company was going to fire me, they were going to do it regardless of whether I had shared what I know.  We cannot control things that are external to us but we can control how we think and how we let these external factors affect us and our well being.

I didn’t have an ‘A Ha’ moment, I had a “What the Hell” moment in the sense of “Let’s Just See Where This Takes Us” …

Today I discussed the instructional coaching model and admittedly, at times I did feel the tinges of the past and the words of my father warn me that I was giving away my work.  But no one said that this was going to be easy and I believe it’s a natural feeling to have especially at a time when people are grappling with this in their own work.

However I know that in the spirit of sharing in this new world that I will learn something from Jasmine as she will do from me.  It’s nice to know that I can call upon my PLN now of people who come from a variety of backgrounds, countries and organisations to get a breadth and depth of opinion and information that feeds my need to learn.

There’s no looking back anymore.

Let’s just see what happens….

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About Activate Learning Solutions

Helen Blunden is the founder of Activate Learning Solutions and Third Place. She has over 20 years of experience within learning and development across private, public and not-for-profit organisations. With a specialty in performance consulting and networked learning, Helen believes that workplace learning is integral to business success. She has a passion for enabling people to learn beyond the classroom and believes in the power of networks and communities to drive collaboration and meaning within the organisation. From facilitator-led instruction, online and blended, Helen deploys social and informal learning such as enterprise social networking, collaboration tools and emerging technologies that have been proven successful and embedded workplace change.
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