Why do we decide to share our information?
The idea of this article is to tell you why I think it is necessary to get out of the secrecy that we were taught to maintain in companies and replace it with practices that invite the sharing of knowledge. It is evident that changing this episteme is difficult, but it seems the indicated path towards the construction of critical thinking as a community. I think so, and that’s what we try to do at Schmitman HR.
Let’s start by remembering that humans are social beings and that we need to belong to a greater or lesser extent to a group that gives us the possibility of generating belonging and purpose. That being said, let’s think about our work environments and the impact it has on us, we identify with our colleagues, we share codes and create bonds of affection and friendship.
These ties are produced through communication and informal interaction every day. We created them by sharing a coffee, seeking opinions, or just by listening to how others’ weekends were. Just the fact of being able to greet our colleagues generates social ties that, over time, will build communities. These communities involve an exchange of information, ideas, and data. Thanks to these relationships, we enrich ourselves; let’s consider how many new bars, series, or movies we discover thanks to our coworkers.
If we go a little further and think about exchanging information with the people that surround us, we can do the exercise of identifying within our colleagues, who we share sensitive information and with whom we don’t. This differentiation is based on several factors: trust, empathy, and values similarity. Most of the time, it is not a conscious choice, if not, a natural becoming … or at least that would be the ideal.
We are bounded subjects.
So far, we have been focusing on an essential and regular operation of how information circulates in a workgroup. Still, there is another side to this dynamic in a company, and it is very attached to the idea that “having information” is a situation of power.
Usually, “having information” is used as an instrument of power and domination. Let’s start from this point: Foucault has already taught us that knowledge is power and power has the potential to impose the truth and, consequently, the imposed truth has the goal of controlling people.
Think about a structured company with a vertical hierarchy where access to information is restricted. In this type of company, we can see how this mechanism is put into action: A CEO speaks in front of employees, transmits an indisputable truth, and those who listen accept it … if they want to continue to be functional to the company and keep their jobs. If we think about it coldly, it sounds absurd and unfair to believe that these structures allow us to sometimes “adapt” to situations that bother us, just to be able to continue working. A widespread example is having to attend meetings, even if we are sick.
This is a subject “tied” to the power relationship that opts from this exercise and leaves him unable to choose, think, and act for himself. To break these ties, you not only have to leave the famous “comfort zone” but also feel comfortable in an environment of uncertainty.
Although these situations make everyone uncomfortable (those in the high and base levels), they are tolerated because there are no other ways of organizing work or because there are no known alternatives.
Other styles of work organization: sharing information as an act of rebellion
In companies like Manas, 10pines o Schmitman HR, where knowledge is shared, the organization is miles away from “what people are supposed to do” or what everyone believes it has to be done between the different levels of hierarchy. We are talking about sharing all the information, including numbers on finances, operations, salaries, business strategies. This means that the data has to be accessible, neat, understandable, and free of biases.
Sharing information in these impartial, transparent ways is an act of revolution. Yes, powerful as it sounds because it implies going against what it has culturally imposed on us.
We have bought ourselves — quite expensively — the story that we should not know our colleagues’ salary or how much the company spends on renting the office. We are told that this is not our business and that it does not serve our work.
Happily, we have discovered that the fact of sharing information puts us -as a group- in a place of responsibility and commitment to what is decided in the company. It forces us to permanently think about why we do what we do the way we do it. This can be difficult and uncomfortable in the short term but makes us better in the long run.
Thanks to that dynamic n which all information is shared, we were able to build an identity based on the possibility of enduring uncertainty, and this we can achieve because we develop our culture based on values. This allows the information that circulates to be tested (that is, not all the decisions we make are always necessarily right, and in all cases, we are willing to review and recalculate). Still, we never let it lose our objectives, our goal, our essence.
Having access to complete information allows us to choose what we want to be part of. Therefore, it does not “tie” us to a speech of absolute truth, but rather that truth is continuously constructed, and if we think about it carefully… does this not deconstruct itself the idea that we have about what truth means?
Exercising the ability to choose has an impact that goes far beyond our daily life in the office. It affects the way we use our freedom, and it helps us to question the status quo of what surrounds us and, above all, it helps us understand that truth is nothing more than an interpretation.
Furthermore, sharing the information of our companies with the same transparency outwards builds a more significant community field. It lets us evolve by learning different practices and leaves us exposed to constructive criticism from other people.
No Bullshit as a motto
Since our company was born as a working group, it has established itself on the foundation stone of no bullshit. Declaring yourself a transparent company implies a commitment that needs to be continuously exercised. A company that is transparent and has state-of-the-art communication without individual biases generates a safe environment where people can express themselves without feeling judged.
The psychological contract that is built is based on trust, which allows for more active listening and, consequently, enables empathy as a value. In this way, culture -that is essential to us on a human level and in our daily practices as a company — is fed day after day.
Learning to think as a community helps us ask better questions, which puts us in the path of wisdom. A team that asks questions together, listens, makes synergy, and builds not only trust but also a sense of belonging.
Developing the ability to listening to others is one of the fundamental pillars when our objective is to nurture a culture based on sharing knowledge/information. It just happens that you can’t speak without someone listening.
Learning to listen is a skill that develops and needs constant feeding, regular exercise of paying attention to another is indisputably necessary for a collaborative environment. The other side of the coin is learning to speak so that others can hear. Dialectical discourse is characterized by fluid and transformative exchange from one subject to another. If there is an evolved listening capacity in people who talk, what is said transforms the other; in that conversation, through my words, I will build myself together. Can you think of a more permanent bond than the possibility of build who we are, along with others?
The unbounded subject: Can a traditional company become an organization that shares all its information?
Every change/transformation has a cost, and I don’t even speak of a financial loss. Developing the necessary skills to sustain a team where the information flows necessarily requires hard work.
I am going to talk about three aspects that must be taken into account: empathy, synergy, trust.
The ability to listen is related to how we position ourselves in front of another. If we have a closed attitude and consider that we do not need others, it is not possible to develop empathy. If instead, we understand that the other is another, with their own ideas and choices that have the same importance as ours, we are a little closer to empathy.
Empathy is not “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes” but rather understanding that those shoes do not fit me and that I cannot put other shoes on mine. The concept of empathy is often tied to the idea of identification. However, I believe that today is the opposite: The other does not feel the same as I do, he or she does not solve his/her problems as I do, and what serves me may not help him/her. I repeat: the other is another.
Being able to make ourselves heard and learn to listen to others allows us to solve everyday problems together, that is, to reach synergy. A team that can work synergistically will solve problems more efficiently, will be able to function creatively, and is much more likely to be on the path to healthy cognitive diversity.
Although the goal of forming this kind of team is excellent from the point of view, it is essential to bear in mind that it involves specific work from the HR and Talent Development areas. Cognitive diversity can be a great ally or a great detractor of decisions in workgroups, so it is essential to treat the issue with the respect it deserves.
This flow of conversations, modes of conflict resolution, and obstacles that exist in one team’s interpersonal relationships cannot be prosecuted if there is no trust in the other. We can go a step earlier and use a phrase that I like to use when everything else falls: “everything works out if there is the conviction of a job well done.” If we start there, we can build trust, but it is necessary to agree on a base from which to leverage trust.
That is, there is no synergy without trust.
Building spaces of trust allows mistakes to be made, and this encourages creativity and critical thinking. Having reached this point, you know where I am going: it is true that the ability to choose brings us closer to freedom, however aligning those decisions with our values is taking this choice one step further.
As community creators, those of us who have been in the position of set up a company have the opportunity to choose how we do it.
Does it help our business to have bound or unbounded collaborators? What is the culture we want to build?
I would love to hear your ideas.