Dispersing knowledge LO11749

Scott Simmerman (74170.1061@compuserve.com)
Wed, 8 Jan 1997 19:36:33 -0500

John Paul. In LO11698, you talk about thoughts from a movie:

"Saturday evening I went for a walk and saw the movie "Ghosts of
Mississippi"... and go on to talk about sharing information. Good stuff.

John's comments reminded me of Judge Reinhold and with Alan Alda (playing
the role of the grant-oriented, research scientist) in the movie about the
politics of AIDS, competing with the French, fighting for copyright, and
involving the US center for infectious diseases in Atlanta that was trying
to play the role of mediator / facilitator. Interesting. It makes one
wonder what might have happened sooner if they worked together (in the
end, they even eventually evidently did.*)

Yeah, the knowledge often does not get shared. Even when benefits are
obvious and important.

In our Lost Dutchman team simulation, collaboration is the major focus and
sharing resources involves one of our primary metaphors. Some teams get a
video card that has 3 turbocharger coupons on it and a detailed
explanation of their use. By using a turbo, the team can go two blocks a
day instead of one for the rest of the game. Thus, they can stay in the
mine longer and mine 3 more gold on the same overall resources because
they can return home more quickly.

And when they get the video card, they are given THREE turbos with the
instructions that the extra 2 can be (quote:) "traded, bartered, sold or
given away" to other teams. A team having a turbo, regardless of source,
can also mine 3 more gold). Thus, if one team shares a turbo with two
other teams, The Expedition mines an extra 6 gold (with an average team
mining 6 gold), at NO additional cost. There is NO value to keeping the
turbo, like there is no value withholding knowledge of an organizational
Best Practice.

So, what percentage of the teams that actually HAVE these extra (and
worthless if not used) turbos and actually SHARE them with other teams?

Less than 50%.

I can always count on debriefing how our Expedition sub-optimized overall
results by not sharing resources or information. And I reiterate that one
of the event's goals WAS to maximize total return on investment. ("Oh,"
they say, "you meant the GROUP's results. We thought you meant our TEAM's

In debriefing, it comes up that:

Teams wouldn't share because then they wouldn't win
Why should they share -- the other team chose not to get it
(and also had a chance of doing so themselves)
Why should they share -- it cost them time to arrange a transfer
and so forth...

and when it IS offered, often teams say "No thanks" and reject the
resource, generally because they didn't want to take the time to
understand what a turbo did or they didn't trust the other team for
whatever reasons.

The quote I use to get off the hook -- as they will often blame Expedition
Leaders for their not working together is pretty simple:

"In an avalanche, each snowflake will claim its innocence."

(Asian or Seattle / Portland 1997 version:
"In a flash flood, each raindrop will claim its innocence.")

The game has been played enough worldwide to allow me to pretty
confidently say that this inter-team competitiveness and information
hoarding seems pretty normal (I got a fax yesterday from Caracus about a
program done in Vietnam that was a competitive nightmare for these and
other reasons).

I remain unsure as to why individuals or teams withhold information from
others -- part of it undoubtedly arises from our Darwinian Education
Systems that seem to operate the same way worldwide (grading on a curve?).
Some of it may be "intrinsic."

My basic understanding of biology is that Darwinian Fitness is about
SPECIES survival as much as any other factor. So why do we compete?

It is also obvious that these behaviors (let's ignore the active theft of
sabotage that also occasionally occurs in the simulation) are slowing
progress in business and government and society. Take a look at a
newspaper front page. The solutions are less obvious -- I choose to at
least make the behavior and its implications apparent.

Interdepartmental Collaboration may, in reality, be an oxymoron,

For the FUN of It!

Scott J. Simmerman
Performance Management Company
3 Old Oak Drive
Taylors, SC 29687-6624 (USA)
SquareWheels@compuserve.com (new name, same address!)

* Can anyone else use three words starting with "ev"?


Scott Simmerman <74170.1061@compuserve.com>

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>