Everyone has a different view on what, when, and how much knowledge and information to share. It’s a topic that can create quite a bit of hostility and heated discussion as well, at least in my experience. As I was looking for a shot today, I stumbled upon this rope I have on my dresser from an event I attended in 2008. Deciding to shoot it in various forms reminded me of the different philosophies each person takes when it comes to sharing information… so I thought I’d “share” that with you.
MY HANDS ARE CLOSED
The first philosophy and one I think that many people hold is that I’m going to keep my information to myself. It’s a belief that there is scarcity of knowledge or that they will be harmed or impacted by sharing that knowledge. There are times when this is appropriate and when it can work to your advantage.
Apple comes to mind. Having worked there for a year, I know firsthand about the tight hold that is placed on knowledge and information—basically everything is on a need to know basis. No open discussions, forums or free conversations. That philosophy has paid off handsomely for them.
On an individual level, photographers for example, there are some who hold their information and knowledge tightly. Whether it’s the equipment they use, lighting secrets, processing, or business and marketing. Holding tightly to that information may be a way to distinguish themselves and separate their work from the competition. It can also be a way to isolate themselves and/or charge a pretty penny if they do decide to share. I’m not making judgments about that style, just seeing that mindset as one way of living and being. Feels like a tightly coiled rope with only one small end open to the rest of the world.
WALKING THE MIDDLE GROUND
The second way of being when it comes to sharing information is more like walking the middle ground between sharing and openness – selective openness. It can come in as many variations as there are people, but chances are it will lead to less isolation and exclusivity.
When it comes to individuals, especially small business owners or visual artists, this philosophy may be very successful. On one hand, you keep some information and ideas proprietary, while extending the other hand in support and sharing. Who knows whether that sharing is something you do in an open and free forum, like a blog, podcast, or free workshop, or if it’s all information that people pay for. Either way, there is a greater sense of sharing and openness than the first example.
BEING AN OPEN BOOK
The last example is the open book. As information flows in, this type of person lets it flow out to others in various ways. The space that is open leaves room for whatever might fill it. This reminds me of Chris Brogan and all that he shares on his blogs and videos. Every day he’s learning something new and turning right around to share that new knowledge with his readers. While you can purchase information from him, i.e. Trust Agents and workshops, it doesn’t seem to be what typifies his behavior.
On the photography side, I think of Zack Arias. When I was first searching for the confidence and courage to move forward with professional photography, I turned to Zack’s blog and critique videos over and over again. His humble and kind way of sharing information in an open forum, the way he responds to and really cares about the people who comment on his blog, and the time he’s willing to take to educate aspiring photographers in his critique videos is astounding. Of course he also has ways you can get more in-depth knowledge, by attending a workshop or learning from his One Light DVD. But there are many entry points to the knowledge he has that he shares without any type of payment, even down to the open house he hosts at his studio before his workshops – open to the public – and always an entertaining rant from Zack about his journey as a photographer.
So where do you fall in all of this? Where do you find yourself or relate when it comes to information sharing?
I find that I connect most with the last example, for a variety of reasons.
- I’m a teacher at heart – it’s who I am at the core, so when I learn something new, my first inclination is to share it. Since I’ve been blogging the last 3 years, that’s been my constant modus operandi.
- I’m not a salesperson – also at my core I dislike sales and the entire process of selling anything. Admittedly that may hurt the bottom line in my business because I give away more for free than I probably should, but it’s just not how I’m wired.
- I’m a coach – this ties in with my teaching, but goes a bit further. I have an inherent, idealistic tendency to see the very best in people, to latch on to their potential and not let go until I see them begin to achieve that.
Honestly, I believe that a good balance is the best way to live. I could maybe do with a bit less openness (or at least my budget could!). Or maybe it’s just that I could really use a person who has the sales mentality to help me uncover what information to give away and what to package to make it more accessible and user-friendly. I’m not really sure, just sharing my thinking process right now. What are your thoughts?
Manual: Page 22—Self Timer
Images: Nicole Wolf for her fisherman photo series she’s been working on for four years! That beats my four days of smoke trails hands down!