The world is basically an open book now, and if you want to play in today’s global tech-driven marketplace you have to be a company that shares. The only problem is, employees aren’t as into sharing as one might think.

One thing that’s going on is that employees are operating in the yesterday mentality of “don’t share”. Having unique knowledge used to mean job security, and giving away that knowledge meant giving up your unique ability to do that job. This mentality simply won’t work if you’re using technology to transform your company into a national or global model.

But you can change it.


3 steps to jumpstart a sharing culture at your company

1. Nail down some company values that support a sharing culture and post them like mad all over the company. 

(Or just steal ours.)

At the heart of the problem of tight-lipped employees lies the fact that work is still a scary place for people to share their ideas. Will they think I’m stupid? Will I get fired? Is the boss going to call a company meeting so everyone can get together and laugh at my dumb idea behind my back? You’ve thought it, I’ve thought it, everyone’s constantly thinking it. But as TED guru Dr. Brene Brown says, making it safe for employees to be vulnerable and share is essential to innovation. So you must get past this.

The core way Xylem gets employees to drop their guard and get comfortable sharing what they know is first through implementation of our Aspirational Values. They are:


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Did you breathe a sigh of relief after reading that? So does everyone at Xylem. And we read them all the time, because they’re posted all over the place. So we always feel safe about sharing.

What they generally mean is this: we’re committed to creating a workplace where we’re all human, we’re all learning, and it’s safe for everybody to just be themselves and throw what they know at this moment in time out there. People at Xylem are never blamed or shamed for the ideas they share or the new things they try, we only build upon what others say and do–however imperfect. We view the whole process as a journey toward excellence and growth that everyone contributes to, rather than an opportunity to size someone up, single them out and make them feel less-than in order to get ahead.

2. The next day, start a company-wide conversation about the new values. 

(Over BBQ and beers if you really want to make it happen).

Start a discussion with everyone at the company about the fact that sharing ideas is now essential to growth, that everyone needs to contribute, and that nobody will lose their jobs for doing it–they’ll keep them. Explain to them how successful startups make it today: they share their knowledge constantly, and in turn achieve the global recognition and interaction needed to fuel growth today.

Then bring up the new values and ask everyone to contribute ideas on how you can all best start living by them. You can even take video of the discussion and post it on YouTube. If you’ve got great people, it’ll be an awesome discussion that will definitely be worth sharing with the world.

3. Get them in the habit of sharing what they’re doing by asking them to start posting short blogs or videos. 

Xylem Design jumpstarted our sharing culture with a small but targeted and easily implemented step: we asked everyone to shoot video whenever we find ourselves doing something awesome. Employee videos are then uploaded to YouTube. They can be as short as 30 seconds, or they can be longer. Don’t expect them to be perfect, just expect them to get made and uploaded. This non-judgmental approach got the job done at Xylem: now we have a highly populated YouTube channel, and a company culture of sharing.

What’s keeping people at your company from sharing more? What could you do to get people to share more?

In the meantime here’s a little more reading on the subject…

The Incentive Question or Why People Share Knowledge

Why Businesses Thrive When Their Employees Trade Knowledge:

Getting Your Employees To Share Their Best Ideas On Yammer, Chatter, And Enterprise Social:

Vulnerability in the Workplace—Oprah’s Lifeclass w/Brene Brown:

Five Reasons Why Vulnerability Can Make You A Transformational Leader: