Thursday, February 24, 2022

Knowledge is Power

 Knowledge is power, they say. This is certainly true in many workplaces. Think of the three types of people you find in many office settings: the gossip, the hoarder, and the source. 

The source is the go-to person, who knows the locations of things and the ways to do things. People who are the source can be in any tier, but usually got a start in an administrative role. In other words, they got all those deets through hard work. These people are often happy to share their info. 

The gossip, again, can come from any tier, but the difference is that their knowledge doesn’t need to be gained or even true. Gossips revel in sharing, or even better, barely sharing. In many organizations, these are people near the highest in the hierarchy.

Finally, the hoarders…this is where I really want to focus. In many organizations, many people in power choose to horde knowledge as a means to exacting power. This behavior can be people at middle and upper tiers of management. Often knowledge does have to be held. Think about restructuring. There is a moment where some people in the organization know before others. The hoarders however parse out knowledge about everything. 

What does all this have to do with museums? Museums are knowledge organizations and these behaviors are rampant. Hoarding of knowledge is one of the biggest complaints I hear of museum leaders. In organizations without profit and loss margins and stock growth, there isn’t so much concrete proof of success. Even visitor numbers and donations are done as group activities. So, individuals horde information to maintain power. In this way, the gossips are the same. They don’t have ultimate power in the organization, so they find another means to gain it. 

But, this type of behavior is ultimately ephemeral. Once the knowledge is out, it has no power. And if hoarding that knowledge made accomplishing the goal harder, you paid for your intellectual greediness. 

Good leaders learn how and when to share. They also learn to lean on the people who are the source and avoid the gossips. Knowledge is useful and powerful when shared. It proliferates and propagates. Sharing knowledge will ultimately make the leaders work easier and better. 

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