I think, therefore I am (Altruistic)

An elephant talking to a mouse about sharing being a nice thing to do

Figure 1: Sharing is nice

Innovation is not a commodity

In my previous article (Knowledge is power and this is why we share) I looked at what influences sharing, using a model that looked at reciprocity and a desire to share. I compared my model to the work of Whitlock, Davis and Yeaman (The costs and benefits of resource sharing); and then modified sharing types that determine how likely you are to share. These types are your UXP, or rather, User Experience Personality. This puts you in the position of an Altruist, Discriminator or Cheater. Sometimes you move between states, as your position is dependent on knowledge and ability. To further understand what causes a change of state we have to look at what exactly people aim to get out of sharing. Whilst capital is the driving force of business; (Swart and Kinne's article on industry sharing) it runs deeper than cash. In UX, capital is knowledge (social capital). But an aspect of UX that is not a commodity, is innovation.

The Strongest Card

Innovation cannot be shared; it stems from ideas and cannot be transferred to another person. Altruists are the most innovative amongst us. Their level of innovation is unique and facilitated by time and their high level of knowledge. Their last card is always innovation and they can never give this away. It is their strongest skill, stemming from experience. Their ability to innovate is so strong that regardless of how much knowledge they share, they can hold onto their strongest card. To the discriminator and cheater the story is rather different. The discriminator is yet to reach their peak level of innovation; they must still find as much information as possible to develop their skills, whilst balancing this with contributing knowledge they have gained to the community. The most susceptible to influence are the cheaters, their level of innovation and knowledge is very low, so they rely on others to provide them with information, whilst testing and exploring their own ideas. By embracing community fed knowledge, the cheaters develop their own ideas, constantly progressing their ability to innovate and problem solve. From this we know that the environment is very important to development, in order to become a well rounded UX practitioner learning needs to take place in a system where high quality information is passed freely amongst peers.

Sharing is Leading

Although this may not always be achievable; the market itself goes through phases, with the presence of one UXP taking a backseat for a period of time. Contributors may move from state to state, depending on their work load, and the quantity that altruists are contributing. Pressures from organisations potentially vary, some prioritise sharing more than others. Sharing can and is often put on hold, with emphasis on producing deliverables as opposed to contributing to the community. But for many businesses, sharing is leading. Leading strongly with contributions lends the notion to readers that an organisation is a market leader. To put it simply, social norms are incredibly powerful. In industries where it’s common to share information, there is significant social pressure and information is shared quite freely. One business leading in sharing can determine whether others contribute (Haeussler's paper on sharing in industries). Twitter is the main tool used to share information across channels; by using Twitter a tweeter can hit multiple disciplines in one fell swoop. This is very powerful! The more you share the more you convey your knowledge and expertise. As a result you gain more followers. More followers create a bigger business influence, which leads to more money and more sharing, which results in more followers. Its a cycle that leads to growth and a perception of leadership.

Do Altruists Exist?

Is the altruist actually altruistic at all? It seems that in many cases an altruist is far from altruistic. They are more like peak innovators. So the next time you wonder why the ‘top dogs’ hand out their information for free, you will know that its because it cements their position as a top dog: wise and knowledgeable. In answer to my question (from knowledge is power and this is why we share): “Does sharing make sense”? Yes sharing does make sense. Because ultimately sharing results in a greater monetary return and of course prestige. The core element of reciprocity is using a resource that is heterogeneous; it’s got to be diverse but unique. Or rather, what makes us change states is loosely related to how refreshing and ‘innovative’ the information is. The virtual exchange between recipient and provider means their link is not a strong bond. As a result it is vital that the quality of information is very high. If the receiver feels that the information they are given is very generic or too boring, chances are they wont feel like contributing themselves.

A Novel Resource is a Powerful Resource

This is another element vital to sharing. A novel resource is a powerful resource (as long as it’s relevant of course). A new dimension to add to the model is the novelty of the information. Not only must this information be novel, but its content is directly determined by others states. Haeussler looked at reciprocity; she discovered that the quality of information provided is influenced by who is going to read it. When the provider knows that information will be given in return their quality is very high. We can draw from this that when the community slows down in the amount they produce, those who are producing would typically provide less novel and groundbreaking information!

An innovator leading by example

Figure 2: Leading by example

In order to reach the status of peak innovation it’s vital that the community thrives and develops. Whilst discriminating might seem appealing, in reality in order to promote yourself as a key player, blogging is vital. We have to share because by sharing we are developing user experience holistically; for all of our clients, our peers and the web itself! By holding back information it inhibits both humanisation and your own personal development as a potential innovator! By thinking and acting altruistic, you become altruistic and indeed a peak innovator. We must lead by example.