Updated: 3/27/08; 6:13:13 PM.
A Man with a Ph.D. - Richard Gayle's Blog
Thoughts on biotech, knowledge creation and Web 2.0

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Knowledge sharing is not based on altruism. Couching knowledge sharing in terms of altruism, as some people do, is mistaken. The essential meaning of the term "altruism" is to give up one's interest for the sake of others, i.e. to sacrifice oneself (see August Comte, who coined the word for that concept in the 19th century; what he meant was not simple benevolence or charity, but rather a moral obligation of the individual to sacrifice his own interests for the sake of somebody else's). Advocating altruism in the context of knowledge sharing ignores and contradicts its very value, which is that knowledge is understanding built on experience, and that sharing it empowers groups of people to work towards common goals — there is no sacrifice there. What is needed is a positive outlook, the desire to learn and teach, and long-term thinking. Positive people are excited about new knowledge and enjoy listening to or telling stories. Learning and teaching implies respect for knowledge and fellow human beings, and the awareness of one's own, constantly changing limits of knowledge. Finally, long-term thinking correlates with a focus on creating value, hence on seeking mutual profit.

Brent Ashley and Seblogging recommend enthusiasm, altruism, [and] optimism to support a culture of knowledge sharing but altruism is emphatically not what we need. Enthusiasm and optimism are correlated, but insufficient. We need people who see that it is in their own rational self-interest to work with others, because they value thinking and new ideas, as well as the power of shared knowledge and goals. It should be a deeply rooted and non-altruistic behaviour, even in a large, multinational company. I submit 3M as an inspiring, successful example. To recap: sacrifice is at the root of altruism, while self-interested value-creation is at the root of knowledge. [Jinn of Quality and Risk]

Okay, not to be too pedantic but people may differ somewhat on whether altruism requires sacrifice or whether it is simply an unselfish regard for the welfare of others (Meriam-Webster). I do agree somewhat with this post. I do not think people share knowledge because of unselfish motives. I think there are some very selfish motives, but they are not pecuniary. I share knowledge because it feels good. I love solving problems. I love solving other people's problems. I love being there and watching the light go on in someone's mind when they see an answer to the problem because I was there. I don't do it for unselfish reasons. I don't do it because of mutual profit or because value is created. I do it because the conversion of tacit to explicit to tacit, the changes in world view, that accompany knowledge sharing provides me with a tremendous feeling of pleasure. I find that the flow that is present in effective knowledge exchange is a very seductive mental state, one that I try to achieve as much as possible. I exchange knowledge because it feels good. Not exchanging knowledge feels bad. As simple as that. The interesting thing is how this self-interest can be adapted by the group to help it flourish. But saying I do it to help the group flourish would be misjudging cause and effect.  10:41:09 PM    

Millennium Says Heavy R&D Costs, Acquisition Fees Offset Strong Revenue Growth in Q3 [GenomeWeb]

Well, they have $1.8 BILLION in cash so they could continue to lose $98 million for 20 quarters before they run out. I think that they will be around for some time.  8:47:10 AM    

ImClone Founder Pleads Guilty to 6 Charges. New York Times Oct 15 2002 11:44PM ET [Moreover - moreover...]

Now I guess they can really go after Martha Stewart. This is the guy who started the whole mess, who made the phone calls that got everyone into trouble and who then told them how to lie to investigators. He is biotech's Ken Lay. I hope he does some serious time but I doubt it. These guys are responsible for probably close to $100 million in ill-gotten gains but will most likely serve less time than they deserve. You can bet that they will not have to return anything approaching the amount they made. See, it IS better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission. If you are going to steal, make sure it is for millions and not for thousands. No wonder so many people are so cynical about the rulers of industry.   8:30:26 AM    

Well, I am not too happy. I can not find all the reference material I had accumulated on Knowledge Management before I was RID'ed. I thought I had packed it up when I left but it is not in any of the boxes. This, coupled with forgetting to copy my bookmarks, really hurts. I'll have to try and recreate what I had, which just takes time I do not have. I wish I had had more than a couple of days to make sure I was not forgetting anything. Oh well.   8:06:11 AM    

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Last update: 3/27/08; 6:13:13 PM.