Firewalling knowledge workers

From Ignatia Webs … AG08 breakfast bytes about managing knowledge, personal and team productivity

One of the biggest problems in companies is the firewall if you want to work with social media. You need to ask permission and you seldom get it …

It’s not just the actual firewall in an organization, which is problem enough. (I understand and accept the need for security as well as protecting an organization’s brand …. It is the heavy-fisted, we’ll just block everything approach that is nonsense.)

I see much much more a firewall mentality – a way of thinking among managers and leaders that restricts learning and knowledge activities to inside-the-firm.  The learning activities outside of the firm’s firewall generally acknowledged are college-level courses; and that’s only if the courses are inherently applicable to one’s current position and work in the organization. I’m not just referring to whether the firm would reimburse me for the expense … I understand the requirement of applicability in those situations.  No … I mean that the fact some learning has indeed occurred outside the organization is not acknowledged, recognized, or cherished.

If I participate in a community of practice of learning technology professionals which is outside the firm … I get a “oh, that’s nice”

But participating in a CoP inside the company … and I get “good job!”


If I complete a series of training programs and courses that are all in the firm’s LMS, I’ll get recognized for taking initiative in my learning and following through in increasing my knowledge and skills.

But if I engage my personal learning environment  – perhaps through a Ning group or contributing to a wiki … even on the same set of topics … I get, “You still need to complete the courses.”

Never mind that those courses are horribly boring and their scenarios are irrelevant to me and my work. Things are trackable in the LMS and everything is kept in a nice, neat and inside-the-house report.

I’m wiling to bet that the best, most effective (and most interesting) learning has come from things read and done and people/groups on the other side of the firewall.


About Rory

I make my home in the central part of the Garden State along with my family. When I'm not working as an Instructional Designer (focusing mostly on Web-Based learning ... and other eLearning technologies) or researching something, I'm found at home playing computer or video games. Among other things, I volunteer as a choir member and catechist for 8th graders at my parish.
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One Response to Firewalling knowledge workers

  1. mikeberta says:


    I’ve been in that position several times in my career and the conversations just don’t get easier. At one point a supervisor, in a training department, noted my performance evaluation with “seems to be using the Internet during work hours”.


    This note, and several other comments, came at times when I was boundary spanning to gain knowledge for the betterment of the company, my own instruction, and the industry. It shows the lack of vision and perception people have of true professionals.

    Your participation in CoP’s is vital to maintaining your motivation, drive, and performance. External CoP’s provide the most benefit, as internal ones are often so insetutious that they provide little gain over the status quo.

    It wasn’t until I befriended a senior IT leader that my problems were corrected. His own participation beyond the firewall far outweighed anything I was doing and his advocacy ultimately helped my defense of being a true professional.

    Since then, I find information to bring to my groups often and make a note of saying, “I got this from __________”. It helps people to understand the value of being on the edges of the organization.


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