Borrowing with pride, acknowledging with style, sharing with humility.

I was participating in a Twitter chat yesterday with staff from across the UK’s National Health Service, on the topic of quality improvement, facilitated by Hugh McCaughey, the NHS’s National Director of Improvement   

One of the threads of discussion picked up on the opportunities for knowledge reuse, and Hugh used the phrase ‘Borrow with Pride’.

We’re all familiar with the idea of ‘Steal with Pride’ – (or ‘pinch with pride’, as Caroline, one of the other participants put it), but there is something in the idea of stealing and pinching which runs counter to the idea of a knowledge marketplace or a reciprocative - or even altruistic - knowledge-sharing environment. 

Borrowing suggests that ownership remains unchanged, and the item will be treated with respect and care. Stealing….. well, you can join the dots on that one!

Acknowledgement is key to this – we should take pride not just in the fact that we discovered something of value, but in who we have borrowed from. We should wear the @ tags of recognition of those who have gone before us – those from whom we are learning - as medals of honour! 

adapted from an image on

adapted from an image on

(“Lacknowledgment” is one of my revised seven deadly syndromes of knowledge sharing - thanks Lynnette for the reminder!)

Most of the time we are borrowing insights, experiences, ideas – sometimes embodied in documents – but often not. So how do we make it easier for people to ‘borrow’ what we know (with confidence that they will acknowledge us, of course)?

I believe that most people are most likely to re-use something shared in the spirit of "I tried this and it worked for me" (good practice in my context) – “this was what we did”, “this was what we adapted from others”, “this was probably where we got lucky”… (thank you Google Inc for that last one). That kind of muted trumpeting requires the sharer to dial back on the PowerPoint gloss a little, be authentic and reduce the barriers to acceptance - to share with a little humility.

Perhaps that's what knowledge leadership is all about?

Image by  Jessica Boyle