Business Bytes: Keep ideas flowing by exploring why they stop

Ideas are crucial to innovation and growth, but many employees choose to keep their ideas to themselves. Why? One of the most common, and most easily remedied, reasons is proximity. Studies have found that employees are extremely unlikely to share information with co-workers who sit more than 30 feet away from their workstations. As long as employees are in the same building, a little rearranging of work areas or frequent meetings can solve that problem.

More troubling are the psychological reasons behind a failure to share knowledge:
·      Fear of rejection. Many people worry that their contributions to discussions or projects will be dismissed, so they keep their ideas to themselves.
·      Fear of exposing ignorance. Often, people are insecure about their knowledge and keep their mouths shut for fear they may be embarrassed in front of co-workers.
·      Fear of theft. Good ideas are a hot commodity in today’s economy, and some people worry that if they share their ideas, others will steal them.
The first two fears are usually a matter of office culture, meaning that change must come from the top down. To overcome fear of rejection and fear of ignorance, managers should cultivate an atmosphere where all opinions are respected and a premium is placed on helping employees learn. Managers at all levels should also be willing to answer questions and unwilling to tolerate employees who disparage the ideas or questions of others.
The fear of having ideas stolen is more difficult to address. It is the reason that many organizations report difficulty in getting employees to participate in knowledge management systems. Some organizations have achieved success by including the sharing of information and ideas in the annual review process and linking such behavior to raises and rewards.
--Adapted from Better Conversations

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