Potential barriers and disincentives

Disincentives exist for good reason, but may be enforced too strongly, or the rationale for their existence may be outdated. The following may be disincentives to knowledge generation or sharing.

Potential Barriers and Disincentives Comments

Administrative boundaries within and across ministries.

Isolates pockets of expertise in silos. Increases risks of important knowledge loss when employees leave.

Administrative boundaries
around government.

Limits experience and skill development. Limits capacity building through work with the private sector, not-for-profits, other levels of government including First Nations, other provinces or countries, communities, colleges and universities.


Isolates insights and innovations in different levels of the organization. Connected to styles of formal leaders.

Technological systems

If systems do not connect well, it decreases the likelihood of people communicating and sharing documents electronically.

Technology-related policies & standards

If there are no standards, or people do not follow them, data and information cannot be easily integrated to support decision-making. If employees need to get permission for long-distance calls or cannot use familiar social technologies or media, knowledge sharing will be hampered or will go underground.

Job descriptions and unions

If employees are constrained to work within job descriptions or union levels (self-censorship or others not knowing about their expertise or controls from above) opportunities for innovation and improvement may be lost.

Performance plans ignoring
work with knowledge as an asset

If employees are not rewarded for collaborative, knowledge-sharing behavior and they are rewarded for competitive, knowledge-hoarding behavior, strategies will not translate to improvements.

Performance plans emphasizing
quick decisions and following orders

Knowledge develops through processes such as problem definition and meaningful conversation in no-blame environments. Quick decisions are important for some situations, but quick decisions for the wrong actions implemented in the wrong way or at the wrong time will require extensive repair work.

Punishment or lack of reward

If the employee who sits alone in a cubicle all day is promoted instead of the colleague who enables connections and conversations for better outcomes, word will spread quickly and innovations will decrease.

Lack of policy or information

Even if intentions or strategies are excellent, progress may be stalled through uncertainty. Does a senior manager really want diverse input when she asks for ideas? Can an employee bring ideas from communities of practice in which he participates in the evening as a private individual? Can a manager share lessons learned in a conference discussion?

Limited experience;
unknown unknowns

Does a career natural scientist understand how to work with a policy analyst and vice versa? Does an employee know that he has counterparts with very different job titles in several other ministries? Does an executive know how powerful problem-solving and learning can be across fields disciplines that seem very different?