Dolly Levi as the patron saint of the knowledge economy

Apropos of the gift economy of weblogs, here’s a great little story courtesy of David Gurteen on courtesy among scholars.

The scholar’s courtesy. A few weeks back I met with a very interesting woman called [Shane Godbolt] who works for the National Heatth Service (NHS) in the UK.

As she valued my website and newsletter – she brought me several ‘knowledge gifts’ in return as a ‘thank you’. This is just what I love about Knowledge Sharing – you get back as mcuh as you give – if not more [Smile!]

Amongst these gifts was a beautiful little story about the importance of acknowledging the sources of your ideas – regardless of whether they are in ‘print’ or not.

I received an early lesson about acknowledging others from my mentor George Spindler. The Spindlers were houseguests visiting me after I took a full-time academic appointment upon completion of doctoral studies. I eagerly shared an early draft of a chapter I had been invited to write, tentatively entitled “Concomitant Learning”.

Spindler was up early the next morning, but to my disappointment I found him looking through materials he had written (my library contained many of them) rather than reading my new draft. He had already read and enjoyed my article, he explained, but he expressed disappointment at my failure to credit him as a source of inspiration for the concept that provided my title and rationale. He had been searching for the citation I should have made. “But you’ve never written about it ,” I explained, reaffirming what I already knew and he was beginning to suspect. “I got the idea from you, but you only suggested it in a seminar. There was no publication to cite.”

Technically (and luckily ) I was correct, as his search revealed. That wasn’t the entire lesson however. “No matter where or how you encounter them,” he counseled, “always give credit for the sources of your ideas. It’s so easy to do so : so appropriate to good scholarship … and so appreciated.”

Never again have I limited my acknowledgements only to people whose ideas are in print. And I, too, have “so appreciated” that courtesy when extended to me!

Harry F. Wolcott, Writing up qualitative research, 1990, pp.72-73). Quoted in Blaise Cronin, The scholars courtesy, the role of acknowledgement in the primary communication process. Taylor Graham 1995, p122. [Gurteen Knowledge-Log]

Na ve though it may be, I continue to believe that knowledge hoarding and information hoarding are fundamentally pathological behaviors that have little chance of surviving in the face of healthy organizations. People who really know stuff are always willing and eager to share their interests and knowledge with others. Those who feel compelled to hoard their knowledge do so because of the meagerness of their holdings not because of their riches. Dolly Levi is the patron saint of the knowledge economy not Ebenezer Scrooge.