X reasons not to learn, not to share, not to progress

Yes, we’ve all come across people, if not previous avatars of ourselves, that refused to engage in knowledge sharing / management or learning for many reasons (1).

Now, back on my main digression, as I sometimes wonder if blog posts are not just useful digressions from ongoing business: reasons to keep away from sharing knowledge, learning or engaging with knowledge management (2) are manifold and they explain why it is still difficult for many of us, KM practitioners, to get our message across in a sea of incredulity, polite rebuttal or open hostility.

How to go ahead without running to a dead end? (photo credits: Andrew Mason)

Let’s therefore imagine that we are trying to convince others to engage in KS/KM – and le’ts just say that this is happening as another digression in the course of a conversation. Trying to convince them out of the blue and without purpose is probably the worst way one can imagine to convince others to share and manage knowledge.

Let’s then have a look at X of these reasons, and also at the other side of the coin, the anecdotes that might win sceptics over:

I don’t have time! I’m so busy, how do you want me to be able to share or manage!? (That sounds very logical at first but then one might wonder) “if the hole you’re digging is not the right one, stop digging!” How can you not take the time to assess if you are relevant? Ever heard about the urgent/important time management quadrant? Do you want to keep firefighting, running like Alice’s rabbit with the risk of ending up exhausted, tricked and sad? Yes learning takes some time initially but just as it takes time to learn how to drive, it always gets you further faster eventually!


Why would I share my knowledge, I don’t want others to steal my ideas! (Perhaps one of the most common excuses for not sharing knowledge. I have a typical example with a music collection): We’re not in the ‘knowledge is power’ paradigm any more. In a world where experts matter perhaps less than connectors to the sources of expertise, it is more like the era of ‘sharing knowledge is power’. An example: I have collected a vast amount of quality tunes – now converted in MP3 – over the years. I could share it all in one go. Yes I would give the direct benefit of my experience to someone else. It still doesn’t mean that this someone else has the background, the expertise, the creativity, the curiosity and the unique combination of all of this that made me compile all this music. If you fear that someone will still your soul, remember that it is your own added value that matters, not the result of your work! If you’re happy to share, be happy to pass your knowledge on and let it be re-adapted in a multitude of creative ways for the collective betterment!


I’ve been doing fine so far, why should I change? (There was this recent blog post I can’t find back which had this beautiful metaphor with sports): every season requires a new tactic, even for the last season’s champion. It’s just not possible to keep doing the same (in more popular terms, there’s a reason behind the expression: to be resting on laurels – think of Roman decadence!).

I’m not interested in your new fancy tools, I know how to organise my work as is! Well, good news! KM/KS/Learning is not about new and fancy tools! It’s about working smartly and tapping into our potential as individuals and groups of individuals. You’re already doing great stuff, how can others benefit from your experience? And who knows, perhaps there’s something out there that could be of interest to you too? Curiosity is the key to learning. Learning is the key to (self-) improvement.

KM is just a new fad, I’d rather stay away from it! (Nuff’ said! At least for rejecting fad! But perhaps it’s time to examine how over-rated that view is because) KM is no longer a fad anywhere. And even if it were, you know how it goes: fad – crash – balance! The point is to have enough experience to be top of the league when the point of balance comes in. You realise here that I’m trying to think in terms of what sceptics may perceive as benefits – you may think the benefits are more along the lines of ‘let’s do it together, have fun and learn tons out of it, even thanks to failing!‘).

I’m not the right guy to do this kind of stuff anyway, talk to [IT/HRM/communication staff] But KM and learning is not about responsibilities! It’s about benefits! And if you talk to people and if you want to improve, you qualify for these benefits! Do you want to work as you have so far, except better? Stop enduring, realise yourself and show the way to others!

You don’t seem like an expert in these things, why should I trust you? Because it takes all of us and all our motivation to go further. It’s the vision that drives, not the expertise! It’s the action that leads, not the words (in French we have this funny saying: “un con qui marche ira toujours plus loin qu’un intellectuel assis – which means more or less: “a walking moron always goes further than a sitting intellectual”). Perhaps I don’t have all the answers, but I want to know! And perhaps your wisdom can help me know better!


Show me that it (KS/KM) works and I’ll think about it. (My favourite! This type of statement is the very reason for me to work and blog on monitoring of KM). Do you ever calculate why it makes sense to see your friends? Can you quantify the benefits of thinking alone on holiday? Can you show what you have done with a training course on a complex issue like managing people? It is not directly possible to show the value of any of this and yet, deep down, you know that it’s right to do it, ok? KS/KM/Learning is about a behaviour change towards more reflection and connecting to other people with a purpose. It takes time, it takes dedication, but it creates better results (“1+1=3”) and it sparks energies – something that cannot be measured but that has major consequences!

Have you always been more successful by working on your own rather than working with others? If yes, then forget about it all; if not, engage, share, learn, have fun, grow and let go!

These are simple and fair questions on the one hand, and (I hope) rather simple and fair answers on the other. The point in the matter is not to over complicate and to focus on convincing the sceptics that are open enough to flip over with simple but powerful stories…  I’m not good with telling stories, as you can see, but I hope some of the examples and some of the quotes will inspire you in your attempt at convincing sceptics to learn and share!

Oh, and while on this topic of knowledge sharing and the barriers to it, don’t fail to read Dave Snowden’s great series ‘Knowledge sharing across silos’: part 1 and part 2, with more to come still!


(1) Please note that I refrain from mentioning a well rounded number of reasons, as I’m slightly getting tired of seeing the likes of 5 lessons to keep in mind, 10 factors to do this, 50 tools that will make you happy, 100 good ideas to apply anywhere and an infinity of numbers to forget

(2) I recognise there are significant differences between learning, sharing and managing knowledge but when it comes to adverse situations there is a large degree of commonality.

Published by Ewen Le Borgne

Collaboration and change process optimist motivated by ‘Fun, focus and feedback’. Nearly 20 years of experience in group facilitation and collaboration, learning and Knowledge Management, communication, innovation and change in development cooperation. Be the change you want to see, help others be their own version of the same.

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  1. I want to make this into a poster and put it all over my office. Do you mind? Im so sick of the excuses!

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