What are knowledge behaviours?

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —May 30, 2006
Filed in Employee Engagement

I’ve been asked by a client to propose a way to help embed knowledge behaviours. My approach will consist of creating situations where the organisation’s staff work things out for themselves and develop their own interventions (as is my way), but it did get me wondering what knowledge behaviours might be. Here are some I’d thought of. My list was prompted by some ideas in David De Long’s working paper of 1997. I would love to hear what you think knowledge behaviours are.

  • sharing what you know
  • helping someone to learn something
  • having open and rigorous dialogue
  • discussing and exploring assumptions
  • speaking one’s mind respectfully
  • seeing whether it has been done before and using what’s been done rather than creating something anew
  • linking up with people outside my clique to see if they are doing something we can use
  • taking time out to reflect on what’s happened and discussing this with my colleagues
  • seeking out the best person to help me (this might not be the most expert but perhaps the most approachable and quite expert)
  • trying to combine ideas from different fields
  • recognising others for their intellectual effort
  • forming teams to collaborate on a project
  • willingness to share the kudos
  • being trustworthy
  • fostering trust (this is a biggy and would have many related behaviours)
  • checking my trusted information sources

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:


  1. Steve Heron says:

    I think one of the biggies is letting people know you are approachable (open door policy?). Others will come to know you as such, which will build trust. Obviously need to make sure that you can still manage your own workload though.

  2. Tom says:

    I work outside the US as one of a very few foreigners in my organization, so I think it’s interesting how many of the behaviors you list are social behaviors (sharing, helping, discussing, linking) or that reflect certain social/cultural values and attitudes (trust, respect, esteem). The underlying values assumed in these behaviors can take on different forms in different groups, so I might think I’m engaged in “sharing” or “trust building” behavior, but my peers on the other side of the cultural divide might not see it that way. Do we have to assume that these behaviors have to occur between members of the same society? And what about “solo” knowledge behaviors like trial and error or reflection?

  3. elearnspace says:

    Knowledge behaviours and information literacy

    This list of knowledge behaviours (which includes elements like fostering trust, being trustworthy, sharing what you know, helping others learn, connecting with people outside of current clique) is interesting. I agree with the elements listed. The int…

  4. What are knowledge behaviors

    Shawn Callahan of Anecdote poses a great question in What are knowledge behaviours? Shawn’s list focuses on those behaviors assoicated with the idea of knowledge appearing in the interaction between people. There are also knowledge behaviors aligned w…

  5. Open door policy is a good addition to the list Steve.
    Tom you raise an excellent point. It reminded me of a case study I read yesterday in KM Review about Orange Telecommuications. They had a regular teleconference of a virtual team consisting of people in Britain and France. The Brits would often joke around on the call thinking it was a good way to lighten the mood (perhaps a knowledge behaviour) but the French were infuriated by the antics because they didn’t understand the humour and found it impertinant.
    This is why I think you cannot have universal knowledge behaviours and each group (organisation) needs to decide for themselves what they believe are desirable and needed.

  6. Les Posen says:

    The New York Times’ John Battelle has an interesting relevant article today about a web based service (Windows only – blech!) which attempts to capitalise on the knowledge of others willing to share – for a price: KM on demand, or KMJIT!
    Here: http://www.illumio.com/blog/

  7. Knowledge and Information Sharing Behaviours

    Shawn at Anecdote posted a list of knowledge behaviours. Jack Vinson of Knowledge Jolt with Jack followed up with some additional behaviours aligned with the individual.
    I already had the following list (developed for a professional services company) o…

  8. Shawn’s anectdote is an interesting one. I don’t thing we’ve even scratched the surface of the issues we need to address in a global ecology. Information, knowledge and all their derivatives are linguistically/culturally constructed, defined, contrived, communicated, etc…
    Without sounding like I’m ranting,
    if we’re using democratization speak, then one might ask himself: Why am I perceived as impertinant? More importantly though are conversations about the larger context, those that that speak to issues acknowleging that the world is indeed not flat.

  9. dotedu says:

    Knowledge behaviours and information literacy

    In a recent post George Siemens asks, “Why not focus on fostering exchange and dialogue?”
    Just yesterday, I was emailing with colleagues in instructional technology services and a faculty member about managing the knowledge we were going to…

  10. This list reminds me of the Habits of Mind — a model for learning objectives that promotes use of knowledge over memorization of facts.
    I referenced this post on my blog and connected it to other conversations related to how our students are changing and what that means for instruction and learning for the 21st Century.
    I think your list serves as a nice place to start (along with the Habits of Mind) in creating new models for instruction and learning today. Especially if we want to produce graduates who are prepared for the new workplace and knowledge-based economy.

  11. Thanks for the reference to Habits of Mind Stephanie. They seem really useful. Creating a new model for instruction and learning seems like a daunting task. What did you have in mind?

  12. Hi Shawn,
    Creating new models for instruction and learning is very daunting — and those of us who see the urgency for this are pushing this in a variety of ways (through blogs, wikis, conference presentations, one-on-one conversations with teachers and administrators, etc.)
    Our concern is that, as a nation, we have taken the wrong path for “education reform” with No Child Left Behind — instead of creating learning environments where students learn how to think and use knowledge effectively, we are creating learning environments where students are only prepared for multiple choice exams based on basic knowledge. In other words our students — our future employees and, hopefully, leaders — are only memorizing and regurgitating facts. They are not learning how to think critically and creatively.
    The knowledge behaviours that you list in this post are generally NOT being addressed in our schools. The Habits of Mind are not being used in all schools — most of the schools adopting these habits as their “learning objectives” are private or charter schools. Public schools are faced with high-stakes accountability mandates and most administrators are concerned only with the “bottom line” of higher test scores — they are not concerned with the long-term affects of the actions that they are taking to get these test scores up.
    My concern is this:
    If our schools aren’t teaching these “behaviours” or “habits”, then where will our students learn them?

  13. Lisa Beckers says:

    I have used these and describe them as key competencies linked to “knowledge development and sharing.” They are broad enough to apply to wide range of organizations and then a specific organization would lay out specific behaviors for each.
    1. Learning from experience (actively searching for others ideas, willingness to discuss failures and openness to feedback)
    2. Developing others (commitment to share insights, help others shine, focus on future)
    3. Team commitment (promoting cooperation and trust, open and active participation in team projects, task forces, communities of practice / Networks, upholding team’s ideas and proposals).

  14. joitske says:

    Hi, interesting list, but my managers would get absolutely irritated, because things like ‘sharing what you know’ are too general and endless. I think what’s missing is the direction and focus and the balance between sharing/working together and doing things singlehandedly. So a knowledge sharing culture would include a good expertise system indicating where expertise is built and where and how it should be shared.

  15. JV says:

    Hi Shawn. Good discussion you’ve provoked. Several years ago, a few thought leaders where I work came up with the triple A on knowledge behaviours. Ask, Act, Acknowledge. These three seem to me to summarise your more exhaustive list above. We must all begin with an inquisitive mind (lower the organisational barriers to ask and not look dumb). Then we need to do something with what we’ve learnt. Without application, new knowledge can’t be expressed in a valuable outcome. Finally, we must always be gracious and acknowledge someone else’s contribution. This is often all that people ask for in return. With this comes reciprocity and the circle turns. Cheers, mate.

  16. Guitef says:

    Comportements pro-connaissances

    Quels sont les comportements qui tendent � l�acquisition de connaissances�? Il est �tonnant qu�une question aussi importante ne soit pas abord�e plus souvent. Particuli�rement dans le cadre d�un renouveau p�dagogique qui met l�accent sur les savoir-fai…

  17. sujatha says:

    Hi, Came across this and found it very interesting. The fact that knowlegde can be shared with trust is good to see in this world.
    Although I am new to this topic but find it of great relevance to the work I do which is research and training. Any pointers on how to get more information in this area will be really appreciated. thanks, Sujatha

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