Asking the Stupid Questions Since 1971
[A]n Arab technician knows that he is invaluable so long as he is the only one in a unit to have that knowledge; once he dispenses it to others he no longer is the only font of knowledge and his power dissipates. This explains the commonplace hoarding of manuals, books, training pamphlets, and other training or logistics literature.
On one occasion, an American mobile training team working with armor in Egypt at long last received the operatorsí manuals that had laboriously been translated into Arabic. The American trainers took the newly minted manuals straight to the tank park and distributed them to the tank crews. Right behind them, the company commander, a graduate of the armor school at Fort Knox and specialized courses at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds ordnance school, promptly collected the manuals from those crews. Questioned why he did this, the commander said that there was no point in giving them to the drivers because enlisted men could not read. In point of fact, he did not want enlisted men to have an independent source of knowledge. Being the only person who could explain the fire control instrumentation or bore sight artillery weapons brought prestige and attention.
In military terms this means that very little cross-training is accomplished and that, for instance in a tank crew, the gunners, loaders and drivers might be proficient in their jobs but are not prepared to fill in should one become a casualty. Not understanding one anotherís jobs also inhibits a smoothly functioning crew. At a higher level it means that there is no depth in technical proficiency. [emphasis mine]
— Norvell B. De Atkine, "Why Arabs Lose Wars," American Diplomacy, Vol. V, No. 4, Fall 2000
These observations apply equally well elsewhere, such as corporate America, where similar cultural impediments to sharing prevail.