When Knowledge Management as a 'discipline' was first discussed, we were most concerned with documents and how to manage them. We then moved into codification- how could you write down everything the company knew. From there we moved to dialogue and conversation.
Underlying each of these aspects of knowledge management is the need to have an environment of trust. This is an aspect of all collaboration, communication and learning which we have not yet fully embraced or understood.
Trust allows us to be willing to share our knowledge with the assumption it will be utilized and valued. We have to trust that the knowledge being shared is accurate. We also have to trust that the organization will not punish us for telling the truth. Each of these is fundamental to the sustainability of managing knowledge.
Yet we do not understand the dimensions of trust. We might trust someone, for example, to be late to meetings, yet we must trust that same person to keep the deepest secrets of our being confidential. We might trust that someone will not organize their information well, but we can trust that the information and knowledge they share is absolutely as accurate as is possible.
Each of the dimensions of trust are vital to understand and to create. They can be won or lost and they will immediately impact our ability to share and use knowledge. We should never under estimate the value of trust but instead make it one of the areas of focus for each of our companies.