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Author's profile photo Christian Horak

A trolley problem for ERP experts: Share or hoard knowledge?

Maybe you have heard of the trolley problem: If not, check it out at this link:

TLDR: The trolley problem is essentially a thought experiment about an ethical dilemma. The imaginary situation forces the reader between two choices, neither of which are “good” choices.

As an expert in ERP, one also seemingly faces a dilemma. You are confronted with a choice:

“Should I – (A) –  share my knowledge,
for example by posting blogs about best practices and experiences, and growth the community knowledge base

or should I – (B) – hoard my knowledge,
so I can surpass every rival and become the recognized leader in my field of expertise?”

What’s the right answer?

Arguments can be made for either position A or B, and there are certainly people like many contributors in the SAP community who trend towards choice A, and share liberally, even to an extent that gets them elevated to Mentor status. Others, in read-only mode, tend towards option B, and extract a lot of useful information from the blogs, answers and discussions in the various expert groups.

The skeptical reader might ask: Is this even a valid dilemma? Can’t one do both at the same time?

I believe that yes, this is a false dilemma, I just used for dramatic effect.

The SAP community offers a way to do both at the same time. As a matter of fact, I believe the laws of networking, crowd-sourced knowledge management, teamwork, and the collaborative nature of the interwebs and social media teaches us one thing: The crowd always will have more information than any one individual. Collaboration will always win over siloed experts when it comes to innovation and creative problem solving

Why am I writing this blog? I believe we have much untapped potential in the value we can create with our contribution to the SAP community. Imagine this scenario:

A consultant in Finland gets a really tricky question during the selection process for a new project. The consultant does his/her diligence, including searching the SAP community, finds most of the  answers, and delivers the information to the client. Great! problem solved!  Or?

At the same time, those very same questions are asked by clients in 29 other countries. Slight variations occur, but I believe that a great amount of questions and information  requests are similar across regions and industries. We could help ourselves, and everyone else in the community by thinking about how we can make the vast knowledge in the community even more valuable by following a simple 3 step process that will not take more than a few minutes a day to complete.

  1. Use the community more often to ask questions, even if they seem trivial, even if the occur in the project selection process, even if they relate to non-technical aspects such as positioning or road maps. It will help us understand where the gaps in the information delivery occur.
  2. Use the tagging mechanism more liberally to make sure your questions can be actually found by the relevant experts, which often also work across multiple solutions or industries
  3. Revisit the question when you have received the answer, and maybe write a short comment that might contain a pointer to a key resource you found in the process, be it a link or a friendly expert from SAP, SAP customers or SAP partners who helped you out.

Since we all can’t see clients in person as much as we would like, be it for reasons of epidemic or cost consideration, I believe we can take the community to the next level by doing A and B, sharing and hoarding knowledge at the same time. Imagine what it can do to your success if you can tap into the wisdom of 3 million registered users to bring relevant, trusted expertise to bear on your situation at the right time?

Your questions help us getting better at helping you getting better together.

What do you think? Is there anything we can do in Solution Management for Cloud ERP to help you out? I look forward to your comments, ideas, and feedback.








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      Author's profile photo Steve SCHNEPP
      Steve SCHNEPP

      Nice article!

      Also, I think it's more akin to the Prisoner's dilemma than the trolley one.

      • The "betraying/hoarding" one does have immediate gains : he has more knowledge than others
      • The "loyal/sharing" one has long term gains : he looks more knowledgeable than others

      That said, in real life, perception more than truth, is key to attract more customers.

      Since the only really important thing is to communicate the fact that you're knowledgeable to others. If you're the best yet unknown expert on the matter, you'll still struggle.

      Finally, for the satire, if I continue with the prisoner's metaphor, a "loyal" prisoner may usually have brighter future than a betraying one.

      Author's profile photo Christian Horak
      Christian Horak
      Blog Post Author

      Ah, yes, thanks for the insight, I had forgotten that one! As I said, I used it like a bit of an attention grabber, but you are spot on. My ideal situation is that customers trust the community enough to share their questions, which will allow us to learn where the gaps are