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May be chiming in late, but darnit, I want to join in on this so. :-)
I think it's nosy to check out what's in the printer (unless you're waiting for your own stuff, in which case, I do it out of sure boredom).
I don't think it's nosy to jump in on a conversation you happen to overhear. Nor do I think it's nosy if you are talking with someone and you notice they are working on something that might apply to what you're working on. So, in John's case, where he saw the diagram he wanted, I would have stopped by to say hi and then "just happen to notice" the diagram and work it into the coversation. Is that sneaky? Hmmmmm.....I don't know. But it strikes me as nicer than just jumping over to someone's cube and asking about it directly.
In my previous job (and in the early stages of my current), we tech writers were not only isolated from the developers, but pretty much isolated from the rest of the company too. We had absolutely no idea what was going on. At some point in my current job (sorry time has lost all meaning since I became a father) our company's project managers moved in next to us. I have a couple of these people just on the other side of my cube and I have found this a MOST valuable sourse of information. I've learned three times as much about our product and our customers since they've moved in. I've jumped in on conversations, and I've asked questions about stuff they're working on if I notice as I walk by. For example, a little while back, I walked by a PM who was working on workflow doc. I asked her what it was, she explained, I realized I really would benefit from reading a couple of the things, she aggreed, and now I know something that I didn't know before. :-) I've also got a standing agreement to share info with another PM as we get it. It's proven very valuable, and all because of a bit of nosiness.
I've read a handful of anthropolgoical and sociological papers that talk about knowledge sharing in corporations. These papers pretty much all agreed that most of the time knowledge sharing takes place through one-on-one interactions and not through "formal" means.
"And in the morning, I'm makin waffles." ~ Donkey
Sean Hower - tech writer http://hokum.freehomepage.com
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