The Sharing of Information
The pros and cons of tip sharing are today much like our ancestral hunter gatherer society. Intra-tribe sharing is important for survival, but extra-tribe sharing is handled with care, as people are competing for territory, food and mates.
In ancient times, and more so in the industrial age and now the information age, information retrieval and task completion takes many steps and complex coordination of social and spacial factors. Task completion usually takes several linear or non-linear steps of perceiving a need, organizing of acquisition steps including prioritizing and coordinating the steps, acquisition or performance, and preservation of the knowledge. Tip sharing would necessitate further steps and effort in the process including dissemination or presentation as well as emotion, time and dynamic interactions.
Within organizations or tribes, information sharing is a “pro”, looked on favorably and encouraged. People and information are seen as assets; human capital possesses intellectual capital. Much of the knowledge base is hard data, databases, passwords, documents, manuals, policies and procedures.
However, the most important intellectual capital is undocumented practical knowledge of best practices. Tip sharing can most often be seen as one employee advises another about the quickest, most efficient way to accomplish a task or retrieve information.
Conditions for Sharing
Employees feel positively about sharing only under certain conditions. The employee is vested or attached to the workplace or organization when he or she feels a part of the organizational process, has loyalty and obligation, and sees similiar attitudes from co-workers.
In other words, the employee will share intellectual assets if he or she feels like part of a team and is working towards a common goal. The employee must also feel that sharing knowledge will personally be beneficial for them; that they will reap rewards and be done no harm. Absence of both of these feelings will engender a “con” in sharing knowledge.
Tip sharing with strangers is usually seen as a “con.” In competition for resources, sharing intellectual capital may prove unwise except for other conditions including increasing one’s status or reputation, perception of reciprocity or for pure altruism. For instance, among multi-player video gamers, sharing code breakers, gifts or cheats with other gamers might decrease your chance for the higher score or access to resources.
In one study, researchers found that the importance or quality of the tip or strategy was correlated to how easily it was shared. The expectance of reciprocity, or an equal returned favor was a motivating factor. A big factor was the possibility of increasing one’s status or reputation. Simple altruism, or helping behavior can explain knowledge sharing with strangers.