As We Open Up, Don’t Be the Office Hog

Share what you know or be isolated again

As we approach our time of The Great Unmasking (whatever the form of unmasking) and step away from the curtain (or screen), it behooves us to take a moment to reflect on what isolation has taught us. Or not.

Reflecting on what we know or don’t know is always tricky. So let’s turn to a knowledgeable knowledge fellow to help us shake the bull from the dung beetle, so to speak:

“… as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

I know, I know. If you read it aloud, it still sounds like a stand-up comedy spiel. But if you reflect on it, and breathe while you reflect, you will recognize its wisdom. Especially if you remember what Donald Rumsfeld added as his punchline:

“… it is the latter category that tends to be the difficult ones.”

Undiluted (comic?) wisdom.

As you come out (from behind the mask and the screen), as you step into that space called The Office, you have a choice. To share what you know you know or to hog what you don’t know you don’t know. (Or is it vice versa?)

  • (For those of you too young to remember or still trying to forget, Donald Rumsfeld, then United States Secretary of Defense, made his famous Known-Unknown statement at a U.S. Department of Defense news briefing on 12 February 2002.)

Don’t Be a Know-and-Hog

How to know and hog with style. (free public domain: clipart-people.com)

Do you know and hog or do you know and share?

Think about your teachers. Many of them knew stuff, but not all could teach. Now, think about your co-workers. Many of them know stuff. Some of them know how to communicate what they know. But others won’t share what they know.

At work, it is always your responsibility to share what you know. And if you are the resident expert, then it is also your responsibility to make yourself understood. It is plain arrogance to expect others to do the work of understanding you.

Knowledge has value only if it can be used. If it is locked up or not simplified for action, then it is useless. You will also be labeled useless if you possess knowledge which you won’t share or can’t simplify.

What if you are a leader guilty of knowledge abuse? Well, soon you will have no followers worth knowing.


Don’t Forget Your (Corporate) Memory

The look of I-don’t-remember-us-doing-this. (free public domain: clipart-people.com)

Did your organization lose people this past year? If so, chances are that it also lost some of its memory. This could be bad. Or good.

Corporate memory is the collective body of knowledge of how we do what we do. It is the accumulation of corporate know-how gained over years in business.

It comes with a catch, though. Too much reliance on it can inhibit new thinkers who bring new ideas. And not enough of it can cause the wheel to be reinvented… again and again.

When people leave, they take this knowledge and experience with them. Yes, this can cause those left behind to make mistakes and be less productive. But it can also create the opportunity for new people to bring new ideas.

The trick, whether people stay or leave, is to make sure that your corporate memory never becomes “but we’ve always done it this way.” If it does, you have stopped learning. And then, whatever you do remember, will soon be out of date.


Kill Your Fly Report To Add Buzz to Your Comms

To report or not to report, WHY should be the question. (free public domain: clipart-people.com)

Once upon a time a forester lived all alone in a wooden cabin in the woods. Wait! This is a true business story. My MBA professor said so and he wouldn’t lie. (Not back then.)

With only trees to talk to, our hero needed a diversion. This came in the shape of the weekly report he had to submit up the bark chain. His habit was to write his report sitting on his wooden deck while swatting the annoying flies. Because he was so bored, he chalked up the number killed. And because writing boring reports really bored him, he began to report the number of flies killed each week.

One happy day, he was promoted out of the forest. Within a month his replacement got an angry memo from above: “Where Is Your Fly Report?”

Now I beg you, please think carefully about the information you so routinely provide today. Your dead flies will surely return to buzz the poor innocent who inherits your chair.

Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.


Previous post you may have missed: Step Out, Turn Around and Lead From Behind

The most recent Friday Trigger Q: Did you create sense or nonsense this week?