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Research has long extolled the virtues of knowledge sharing, but despite praising its benefits, and companies “jumping onto the bandwagon of knowledge sharing” in practice little information exchange occurs.

According to a group of academics the reason is a straightforward one: employees they say don’t necessarily want to share their knowledge.

David Zweig, a professor of organisational behaviour and human resources management at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and the University of Toronto at Scarborough, along with co-authors Catherine Connelly of McMaster University, Jane Webster of Queen’s University and John Trougakos of the University of Toronto describe this activity as “knowledge hiding”.

The paper, “Knowledge hiding in organisations”, published in the Journal of Organisational Behaviour, outlines three ways in which employees hide their knowledge from their co-workers: either by being evasive, pretending to not understand and finally rationalising the hiding, for example stating that the information is confidential.

Prof Zweig says that employees behave in this way either because there is a basic distrust within the company or it could be down to a poor knowledge sharing climate within the organisation. Companies need to establish a climate of trust say the academics and avoid “betrayal incentives” such as rewarding salespeople for poaching each other’s clients. They should also have more direct contact with their employees, rather than relying on emails.

“If you don’t work on creating that climate and establishing trust, it doesn’t matter how great the [knowledge sharing] software is, people aren’t going to use it,” says Prof Zweig.

● Everyone has a different idea of what they think a leader should be like, with most people citing some form of representative leadership, ie “people like us”.

However, new research has discovered that in times of crisis there is general consensus about the qualities necessary for a good leader. A visionary is called for.

“When push comes to shove, especially in situations when groups are facing a crisis, we don’t just want the person who acts and thinks like us, we want the person who has an exceptional, positive vision of the future,” says Nir Halevy, acting assistant professor of organisational behaviour at Stanford Graduate School of Business and lead author of “The Mainstream is Not Electable: When Vision Triumphs Over Representativeness in Leader Emergence and Effectiveness”.

A leader who is able to express a clear vision for the future is very important when a company is facing a crisis says co-author Adam Galinsky, professor of ethics and decision in management at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Visionary leaders, say the writers help individuals to be more open to change. The researchers say that when “vision and representative leadership diverge, vision prevails, especially in critical situations”.

The research, also written by Yair Berson of the University of Haifa will be published in the July issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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