What would we do without serendipity? I was looking for something else on the internet just now and (re)stumbled across this from Dave Snowden. It's from a blog he produced in 2008, but as relevant today as it was then. Worth sharing I thought.
Knowledge can only be volunteered it cannot be conscripted. You can’t make someone share their knowledge, because you can never measure if they have. You can measure information transfer or process compliance, but you can’t determine if a senior partner has truly passed on all their experience or knowledge of a case.
We only know what we know when we need to know it. Human knowledge is deeply contextual and requires stimulus for recall. Unlike computers we do not have a list-all function. Small verbal or nonverbal clues can provide those ah-ha moments when a memory or series of memories are suddenly recalled, in context to enable us to act. When we sleep on things we are engaged in a complex organic form of knowledge recall and creation; in contrast a computer would need to be rebooted.
In the context of real need few people will withhold their knowledge. A genuine request for help is not often refused unless there is literally no time or a previous history of distrust. On the other hand ask people to codify all that they know in advance of a contextual enquiry and it will be refused (in practice its impossible anyway). Linking and connecting people is more important than storing their artifacts.
Everything is fragmented. We evolved to handle unstructured fragmented fine granularity information objects, not highly structured documents. People will spend hours on the internet, or in casual conversation without any incentive or pressure. However creating and using structured documents requires considerably more effort and time. Our brains evolved to handle fragmented patterns not information.
Tolerated failure imprints learning better than success. When my young son burnt his finger on a match he learnt more about the dangers of fire than any amount of parental instruction cold provide. All human cultures have developed forms that allow stories of failure to spread without attribution of blame. Avoidance of failure has greater evolutionary advantage than imitation of success. It follows that attempting to impose best practice systems is flying in the face of over a hundred thousand years of evolution that says it is a bad thing.
The way we know things is not the way we report we know things. There is an increasing body of research data which indicates that in the practice of knowledge people use heuristics, past pattern matching and extrapolation to make decisions, coupled with complex blending of ideas and experiences that takes place in nanoseconds. Asked to describe how they made a decision after the event they will tend to provide a more structured process oriented approach which does not match reality. This has major consequences for knowledge management practice.
We always know more than we can say, and we will always say more than we can write down. This is probably the most important. The process of taking things from our heads, to our mouths (speaking it) to our hands (writing it down) involves loss of content and context. It is always less than it could have been as it is increasingly codified.
Clay Shirky, author and professor of new media at New York University discussese the unique challeng of managing millenial employees.
Note: the "net generation" is the demographice cohort following generation X, with birth dates ragning from early 1980's to 2000. This group is also commonly referred to as "generation Y", or "millennials".
Thanks to my colleague - Conrad Taylor - for pointing me at this. A fascinating video showing how books were made before the introduction of digital typesetting and electronic publishing. As Conrad observes in the comments: "Some ...assume that the digital age has replaced the printing press. Not so! Most books and magazines are printed by offset lithography. So things are digital up to the point where the litho plate is imaged — but intricate, complicated and huge machinery takes over from that point onwards!"
However, my recent foray into e-books (having just purchased a Kindle) does remove even the heavy machinery dependency. With more and more content available in electronic form, I'm wondering whether the printing press will be obsolete within 50 years?
Salesforce.com officially announced today its acquisition of Indian web conferencing company Dimdim for approximately $31 million in cash. It is anticipated that Salesforce.com will integrate DimDim's features into their SaaS Chatter product.The Dimdim web site now allows only existing customers to login, with a note that new registrations are not being accepted. The open source community edition is still available for download from Sourceforge but will no longer be maintained by Salesforce.com. All free accounts are being shut down. DimDim was (is) a component of the Knowledge Hub (a projects I'm deeply involved with) and would have provided a free-to-use conferencing facility for Gov/Local Gov users of theThe Knowledge Hub when it is launched later this year. The full implications to the Knowledge Hub project are being assessed.