Rethinking Ownership - InformationWeek
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4/24/2008
08:19 PM
Melanie Turek
Melanie Turek
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Rethinking Ownership

One of the reasons given for UC-related initiativesis that they allow enterprises to keep control of their institutional knowledge. Wikis and blogs, when aligned with the appropriate content-management tools and policies, ensure the knowledge in people's heads is collected and shared. Fixed-mobile convergence ensures companies maintain control of the phone numbers their employees use, to capture any contacts who call specific employees after they've left the organization. Social networkingensures the company captures information on employees skills and experiences, so they can leverage them as needed.No one can argue against companies wanting to protect their investments, and the work people do for them while they're employeed certainly counts. But thisdesire to "own" a person's knowledge, experience, and even contacts wouldseem to run counter to another trend we're seeing in today's business environment: Individuals want to work, essentially, for themselves, and very much on their own terms. No one graduating from college today expects to work for the same organization for a decade, let alone a lifetime. Rather, they expect to develop their knowledge and skills as they go, then take them with them when they leave.Surely there's a happy medium here. Companies clearly own the work product produced during an employee's tenure, and they have every right to digitize and archive that work, even if it isn't delivered in traditional formats, but instead lies in e-mails, IMs, and conferences, for instance. And it makes sense for companies to want to answer the phone after an employee leaves. But companies should also be realsitic when it comes to ownership rights. That call, for instance, won't benefit the company if the caller has an exclusive and personal relationship with the employee who moved on. And no matter how much we put our thoughts into writing, very often it still requires the people behind those writings for the knowledge to mean something.Respecting individuals for their knowledge, skills and experience--and giving them compensation and opportunities for growth and fullfillment as a result--would go a long way toward solving this dichotomy, of course. Make it good for people to work at your organization, and you're more likely to keep them around longer--giving you the opportunity to leverage all that good wisdom for years to come. That will make your efforts at cataloging it truly worthwhile.

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