Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Knowledge Sharing and Incentives

It struck me when I was watching TV. In Holland we have a program called 'Opsporing Verzocht' (English: We're looking for something/someone'). It's a program to solve unsolved crimes. Basically it's crowdsourcing. The TV hosts and the police tell the people watching the 'show' about a crime and hope someone will have the golden tip to solve the crime. I'm sure you know the concept.

Every now and then, when a case is hard to solve the police offer a smaller or larger reward. Hoping this reward will encourage a reluctant (or scared) watcher to share tips about this case possibly  leading to its solution.

That struck me. They are offering financial rewards to share information. To my knowledge offering financial incentives to encourage knowledge sharing is advised against by the knowledge management experts. It basically leads to worse sharing and its the wrong way to encourage sharing. Relate to Nick Milton's post on this topic for instance.

But is this true? Am I missing something here? Was the conviction about incentives more subtle. For instance, financial incentives work only in specific cases, like crimes? And if so, what type of cases in organization compare to them?

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