Recently I have been tormented by the cultural dimensions of what one considers ‘sharing’. Here, by culture I mean the difference that is due to where we are from, “the beliefs, customs, practices, and social behavior of a particular nation or people”. I intend to distinguish it from organizational culture as I think that is subculture which is a product of many cultures trying to co-exist, while the other is inherent to us as individuals.
The more global in nature our work environment is the more we assume that we learn the culture of the organization but not necessarily pay enough emphasis on the culture of our contexts which is much larger than that of the organization and plays a role in how we interpret and reshape the organizational culture. This is particularly important when we think of sharing and particularly knowledge sharing. In a multi-cultural (global) context this becomes more obvious when we are confronted with people from another culture that we become aware that our patterns of behavior are not universal.
Within this background I think its important to adopt what sociologists use when studying societies, called relativistic approach. For sociologists within the relativistic perspective, diversity, not consensus, is the central fact of social life. People and groups often have competing or conflicting interests rather than shared interests and goals. I think it is important to consider this approach particularly in the context of sharing. Because if you understand how people from one culture share then you can build systems, mechanism, incentives and technology that allows for greater sharing.
Here I am not at all referring to the concepts of cultural preservation, “Cultures are not museum pieces, to be preserved intact at all costs” (Nussbaum, 1999, p. 37). However, what I do think we often miss is the cultural sensitivity to predisposition in sharing of knowledge that are important determinants in both the success and adoption of any systems/processes institutionalized for systematizing knowledge sharing.
As I prod through my own thinking around this and perhaps the contradictions that exist in this thinking I hope to arrive at a place where I am able to articulate ‘how’ I think it can be done as opposed to the challenges currently we face.