Sharing Knowledge (or why I’m bad at Algebra)

I am still waiting for the day when I will have to pull a (3x-5) out of my pocket and multiply it with a (2x-1). I keep one in my bag in case of emergencies – thankfully I haven’t had to use it yet; its been so long I’m not sure if it’s even any good any more. Do polynomials go off? I honestly wouldn’t know – I never understood what polynomials were although I apparently knew enough to get a pass in high school algebra.

Fullan’s (2004) Leading in a Culture of Change asks the reader to consider the statement “Information is not pertinent until people decide what it means and why it matters.” Also to consider “It is a mistake to focus on information rather than its use.” Oh how I wish someone had explained that to my maths teachers way back then. If only they had thought to spend time sharing the ‘secret’ of the why as well as the how. Without a use, the information on how to do the procedures never turned into learning, I gained no knowledge from the time spent in class.

Education is now making the shift from an emphasis on distributing facts (information) to creating and sharing knowledge. And creating a culture of sharing is one of the jobs of a leader. Fullan suggests that the conditions have to be right in order for this to occur. Quality relationships is the key, of course.

What interested me the most in this chapter¬† was Fullan’s take on the relationship between good relationships and a culture of knowledge sharing.¬† He cited Dixon’s observation that

… the exchange of knowledge happens only in organizations that have a noncompetitive or a collaborative culture. It follows that the first thing you have to do is to fix the culture and then get people to share. But I have found that it’s the other way around. If people begin sharing ideas about issues they see as really important, the sharing itself creates a learning culture. I have, of course, inserted an important caveat in that sentence: “about issues they see as really important” (Dixon as cited in Fullan, 2004, p. 124).

It interested me to compare it with an earlier blog quote I had

… many persons express the conviction that effective human relationships improve communication far more than communication improves relationships. (Savage, 1989, p. 109)

Do they contradict each other? If so which is right? What needs to be tackled first; relationship-building or communication/sharing?

Its one of those cyclic issues and perhaps that’s one of the reasons that collaborative cultures don’t develop easily. No one knows if its OK to start or where to start. In fact my own experience (tacit knowledge!) has been exactly that, no one wants to be the first. This is one of the places in which TLs can really take a lead. Someone has to break the ice, step up to the plate, lay their cards on the table and we have the training to do it.


Fullan, M. (2004). Building relationships. In Leading in a culture of change: Personal action guide and workbook (pp. 77-114). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Savage, W. (1989). Communication: Process and problems. In C. Riches & C. Morgan (Eds.), Human resource management in education (pp. 103-119). Milton Keynes: Open University Press.