secretiveness versus openness

I have occasionally been advised on and off right from childhood: be secretive about what you know. If you tell others, they will learn from you, utilise that knowledge, and become better than you, and you will lose out! There is a proverbial tale of the cat that teaches a tiger to hunt, and one day the tiger decides to eat the cat, but the cat climbs up a tree. The tiger can’t follow and questions the cat – how come you didn’t teach me to climb trees…!! But the cat is happy that that’s the one bit of knowledge it kept secret and DIDN’T share with the tiger, so its saved now aahaaahaaaa 😉

But I don’t think this story’s moral is to be taken too seriously in the corporate world. Even among school student’s there’s a popular misconception that “If I teach this other fellow something he’s finding difficulty with, he will score more marks than me in the exam and get a better rank than me!” – this petty attitude is the result of our rat raced competitive attitude in our education system.

Not that I want to take any extreme stand and there may of course be some occasional exceptions depending on one’s discretion, but by and large I find it is far far more rewarding to freely and openly share knowledge, and exchange ideas synergising with others.

Over time I’ve come to the conclusion that even if by chance someone was to learn the skills, and take advantage of it and overtake me, I will be happy for them.

My basic world view is and has always been of abundance. That there is enough for everyone and more.

Retrospecting my school days, whenever I’ve taught anyone else, I’ve found that I myself have learned the subject much better. Not only the subject, it had improved my communication skill as well. It had made both me as well as the other person happier! And even if he or she had got 6th rank and me the 12th rank – it HAD NOT REALLY MATTERED TO ANYBODY IN THE WHOLE WORLD 🙂

And in the corporate world, if someone were to use the knowledge that I shared, or even ideas, and implements them and gets a promotion or even makes a million dollars out of it, which may (hypothetically) deprive me of making the same money because that idea has already been taken, then I know that there are INFINITE other ideas with infinite potential that are always going to be available, sooner or later, just a matter of time! 🙂

Off late this world view has been reinforced and I find in it the ultimate security and peace of mind.

(Of course there are always exceptions, maybe some specific idea or dream, shared before its time, loses its energy or momentum before its atleast initially implemented. I think this would be the only reason I would defer sharing anything)

6 Responses to “secretiveness versus openness”

  1. Kiran Says:

    Hmm .. I think I disagree with your views here. In my case (and in that of many of my friends); as kids or even during colleger time, we’ve always believed in sharing. First new thing/concept/puzzle – whetever – that we’d come to know, we’d distribute to everyone in tha gang. It was like our duty to do it.

    When I entered corporate world, I continued doing the same. “What goes around, comes around”, I’d tell myself. But this works only if everyone else is as sincere as you. Unfortunately, corporate world is a dog-eats-dog universe. I still dont mind sharing whatever skills/info even if it results in the other person getting promoted over me etc etc. What I wouldn’t like however, is being stabbed in the back by the other person.

    So conclusion is – its good to share but one needs to be careful who they share with .. especially in the corporate world.

  2. Sanjay M Says:

    Since you too believe in sharing I’m not sure which view you’re disagreeing with 🙂

    Wrt kids – I mentioned ‘occasionally’ and I had come across just a few ultra-geek kids who didn’t want to share what they know and had a neurotic obsession of always wanting to come 1st rank. These were usually kids who’d have a nervous breakdown if they came in 2nd (and that would be if they had a fever and hadn’t been able to study properly etc what a tragedy 😉 )

    Getting stabbed in the back = I don’t know, can’t immediately recall this happening to me any time personally. I speculate this could be possible if one shares some discrete info that was not supposed to be shared, and someone else leaks out who shared it landing the ‘sharer’ in trouble! But can this happen as a result of sharing good technical freely available info (the main context of this article)? One possibility may still be that the recepient takes credit for it (in a way making the one who contributed look useless) hmm this may happen I guess… not worth worrying about in my opinion. Someone may steal credit for your contribution, but it is impossible to steal your ability to contribute which is infinite.

  3. preethi Says:

    Sanjay,
    I agree with you..The world has lot of oppurtunities for all of us.I do understand corporate world is very competetive.I also share with other people,the mistakes I made..They dont have to re-invent the wheel and go through the painful learning process that I went through…

  4. sulochanosho Says:

    I just liked the words there in this post:

    My basic world view is and has always been of abundance. That there is enough for everyone and more.

    Of course sharing or revealing has different dimensions and contexts.
    Knowlege or idea is like a seed – as long as they are seeded or served they survive and take a new growth. Merely preserving the knowledge or ideas and not serving or seeding them means keeping a [dead] corpse there – one day you open it and you find there only bones or nothing.

    Existence is always for abandance. Existence is always for now.

    Good reading there. Thanks.

  5. Sanjay M Says:

    They dont have to re-invent the wheel –> Preethi you said it!

    sulochanosho – comparing knowledge to seed & growth is a pretty good metaphor thanks!

  6. Sanjay M Says:

    Happened to bump across Nipun’s talk on Gift Economy…

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