posted 17 Dec 2007 in Volume 11 Issue 4
The Gurteen perspective: Life is political
YOU CAN’T avoid politics. Some time back there was a fascinating debate triggered by Nirmala Palaniappan on ActKM, one of the best KM discussion forums on the web. Let me paraphrase her posting slightly:
"I’ve been thinking about something that perhaps shows KM in ‘bad’ light. What if a person who has been innovative has worked hard and created his or her own things and then has shared the knowledge with others in the same domain? He or she has then been taken for a ride by one of those who has benefited.
The person who benefited has tweaked some of the concepts, admittedly added, perhaps, some value to them and then projected himself as having been innovative. This idea-stealer has the people-skills to project himself as having done a great job and doesn’t give credit to our knowledge-sharer. The knowledge-sharer has got a raw deal and is left high and dry wringing his or her hands. To add insult to the injury, the idea-stealer has been sweet-talking our knowledge-sharer into sharing information on a one-to-one basis and no one knows about the ‘mentoring’.
Maybe this situation helps the organisation as a whole, but there is one person who has got an unfair deal and there is another who is walking away with someone else’s work without so much as a struggle and what’s more, is taking the credit for it too".
What would you do in such a situation? What would your advice be to others in such a situation? There was lots of good advice from the forum: use of weblogs, creative commons, keeping logs of conversations and more. But at one stage Nirmala replies to another posting thus:
“Yes. I agree. It is, partly, the giver’s fault. But, I feel a little irritated to think that one cannot be left with the joy of having been creative. One also has to be politically smart to be able to project, protect and safeguard one’s own creations from predators and that means spending some really valuable time in non-creative pursuits to say the least – that’s a tough task for the apolitical.”
I used to feel like Nirmala until I came across an article written by Tom Peters entitled ‘Politics the path to achievement’. Here is an excerpt:
“Every relationship, with friend, spouse, or business associate, is political, rests on lots of give, some take, and the sharing of assumptions. To be sure, divorces occur regularly and business partnerships split up all the time. The fact is, such failures are political – for example, the failure to invest sufficiently in a relationship. The meaning of ‘invest’ is clear: paying the price of frequent compromise and, above all, spending time.
Often as not, the time spent feels unproductive, but it’s usually not. In truth, the wise devote most of their waking hours checking out where the other person is coming from: trying to understand what sorts of things went on for him or her yesterday that led to today’s unexpected blow up over a trivial remark.”1
Those natural knowledge sharers among us need to learn to not ‘blindly share’ but as Nirmala says to “take the time to protect and safeguard our creations from predators” . It’s not wasted time – it’s well invested. Life is political – there is no getting away from it! ?
1 The Independent (