Enablers of Information Sharing
During another webinar with leaders from my cooperation partner Bosch, I was asked another very interesting question with regard to how formal leaders can support the establishment of shared leadership in teams. At that point I had been talking about the shared leadership diamond of Pearce, Manz and Sims and how getting people to share information with each other is paramount importance in order to get cooperation going.
So the question was:
How do we get people to share their information?
This is a very good questions, especially since research has also shown that teams tend to share information they already know, rather than new information. So here is the answer to that question and my gratitude to Lukas Ernst who took some time to look up the relevant literature on this for me. This is, of course, not meant to be an exhaustive literature review of all the available literature on the topic, but due to the nature of these papers (meta-analysis and literature reviews), the findings should cover large parts of the field and provide a reliable answer.
First Mesmer-Magnus and DeChurch found in their meta-analysis in 2009 that three main factors influence information sharing. First, structuring team discussions support the concentration and processing of information. Second, it is important to make the team aware that it has both the knowledge and the ability to find an excellent solution. This increases the motivation and alertness to seek out and accept new information. Third, it is also important to create a cooperative climate to encourage interaction between team members.
Similar findings come from Wang and Noe. They also find that a cooperative climate will lead to more trust, which is a deciding factor with regard to information sharing. Furthermore, the perceived support by the upper management as well a structure supporting communication are also beneficial. Example of the later include: an open workspace, job rotation and opportunities for employees from different hierarchical levels and areas of the company to meet and exchange information.
Finally, Witherspoon and colleagues summarized findings regarding this question in a literature review in 2013. They point out that the individual intentions and behaviors of the employees also need to be considered. They show that being convinced of the importance of one’s information and general readiness to help are essential for team members to share information. Additionally, the organizational culture plays a role. If employees perceive themselves to be parts of the decision making process and have the opportunity to participate, and if they feel committed to the company and have common goals they are more likely to share important information.
To achieve this, organizations can support their employees by providing access to knowledge management tools and a leader who demonstrates the sharing of information actively. Lastly, rewards structures can support information sharing behaviors, especially if employees can increase their reputation and prestige within the company by sharing information.
To summarize, a cooperative organizational culture based on trust, support by the management and the leader, as well as guiding individual employees to gain a strong belief in the value of their information will help that important information will be shared within the organization.
Witherspoon, C. L., Bergner, J., Cockrell, C., & Stone, D. N. (2013). Antecedents of organizational knowledge sharing: a meta-analysis and critique. Journal of Knowledge Management, 17(2), 250-277.
Mesmer-Magnus, J.R., DeChurch, L.A. (2009). Information sharing and team performance: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94, 535–546.
Wang, S., & Noe, R. A. (2010). Knowledge sharing: A review and directions for future research. Human Resource Management Review, 20(2), 115-131.