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To foster an environment where information is shared readily, progressing towards a sense of CollectiveOwnership?, individuals must be able to trust that they will not be penalized for contributing to the collective. In simple economic terms, sharing must be more rewarding than staying quiet, and similarly sharing should not be more costly than staying quiet.

One of the major disincentives towards sharing information is the overt construction of a PeckingOrder: a social hierarchy to distribute rewards. This is done by having TheIndividual team members compete for attention, power, control, and other rewards based on their relative merit. Since team members are motivated primarily by their PersonalGoal?s, this will distract the team from accomplishing their common SuperordinateGoal. Instead of collectively striving towards accomplishing the SuperordinateGoal, individuals expend energy competing with each other. This is focusing energy in the opposite direction: inwards rather than outwards.

Sometimes this is appropriate. For instance, in an economically integrated society, all members contribute to the society's over all competition with other societies. However, within some economic systems such as a FreeMarket?, internal competition is heavily encouraged as a way to test a variety of ideas and solutions out. Even on a less grand scale, within all organizations, there are frequent decision points where champions representing different viewpoints and positions compete for control over the company. After all, when the way forward is not clear, there needs to be a HealthyConflict to decide on how to proceed.

In both cases, though, a FairProcess must exist to ensure that all parties can continue to work together afterwards. In the FreeMarket?, there is a code of honour in business that requires companies compete on value rather than eroding their competitor's market position through non-market levers, such as politics or leverage. This is not always adhered to, of course, and so there are laws in place to protect the fairness of the market. Within an organization, a HealthyConflict remains so as long as the conflict is over the ideas rather than the person. As long as the best idea has a chance of succeeding, all parties will remain committed to the outcome.

The critical difference between these two examples is that the FreeMarket? is a meritocracy. The generator and owner and executor of good ideas is rewarded economically. The reason is simply that actors in the FreeMarket? are free to shift their relationships, raise their own funds, and try different tactics to try to survive. Moreover, competitors do not have to work together. However, an organization is not a FreeMarket? as individuals do not have freedom to shift their relationships or generate their own funds, and individuals have to work together in the future. A meritocracy will destroy a spirit of information sharing. As soon as individual rewards are tied to their personal contribution, it becomes costly to share information with a potential competitor who may "steal" the idea and claim it as their own.

This creates a seeming paradox. Individuals are motivated by their individual rewards, yet only giving individual rewards will emphasize PersonalGoal?s over the SuperordinateGoal. However, rewarding the team collectively is not a FairProcess as overarchievers rewards are tied to the mediocre or even underachievers. This frequently (but not always) demotivates the overachievers.

Indeed, the solution is buried in the problem. TheCollective as a whole is rewarded, whether competing in a FreeMarket? or simply given a bigger budget. TheCollective must internally divide its resources as rewards to individuals, but these resources are finite. Each team member can increase his or her reward by improving the team's performance as a whole, thus capturing more resources. The entire team must TakeResponsibility? to InvestInOthers?, for each and every of its members. Members must help train each other, improve each other's capacity, AlleviateInsecurity. That's what CollectiveOwnership? is all about. Sabotaging other team members is self-defeating.

Therefore, if "stealing" information is self-defeating, the antidote is a CommunityExpectation to GiveCredit where credit is due. If everyone knows they will be recognized fairly for their contribution, they will not hesitate in contributing. In fact, they will contribute more in order to compete with those who are quickly building reputation by contributing. Credit should not be stingy nor qualified, but generous. If someone contributed even a little bit to an idea, they should be granted credit, at least honestly for their part. Being generous reinforces the CommunityExpectation, and it also avoids the pitfall of mistakingly under-reporting someone's contribution. Further, if you are generous with credit, you AddValue? to others, and they will come to respect you. You should be humble with praising your own work. Just don't let someone take credit for your work.

When credit is not fairly given, TheCollective has a responsibility to correct this and reinforce this CommunityExpectation. Academia is famous for giving credit in order to encourage publishing, and they are equally famous for harshly punishing those who plagiarize. IntellectualProperty also protect the originator in return for publishing, although the protection extends controversially beyond mere credit. In normal life, the best way to take credit graciously is to mention it casually quickly afterwards, as in, "By the way, when I suggested to Jane, X, for her excellent presentation, I neglected to emphasize how important Y was. While considering X, we should take care to ensure Y doesn't..."

It's perfectly fair to assess people for their actual contribution to the team, as long as assessing contributions can be done accurately. This can only be done if contributing is an OpenProcess. The only way to ensure that is if information is shared more, openly, freely, and without remorse. A CollectiveOwnership? of ideas is not a contradiction with individual achievement.

Note this is not limited to monetary compensation. Every organization competes on a FreeMarket? to achieve its goals. The reward may simply be control over the direction of the organization. Those who contribute the most effectively are typically granted the most control.

Corollary. TheCollective must also AvoidBlame?. If TheCollective endorses an idea and acts on it, they have collectively taking responsibility for the idea regardless of who contributed the idea. Do not even Wiki:BlameYourselfFirst. Every failure is a learning opportunity. You can't learn how to ride a bike until you learn to fall off of one. If you blame people for their ideas, they will become defensive. They will stop contributing ideas for fear of retribution. The cost of contributing will outweigh the benefit.

CategoryManagement CategoryConflict


This looks like advice and thoughts, but reads like unequivocal truth. Are there perhaps any studies to back up the claimed results? (Not that I don't believe them, mind.) -- ChrisPurcell

I don't have any studies. The claims about becoming friends are weaker than the process of actually encouraging information sharing, which is pretty straightforward. I hope this rewrite is clearer. This was my original title. Changing it changed the focus to things I don't actually believe in. -- SunirShah


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