Friday, June 04, 2004

Nothing new under the sun? 

Although the term “Knowledge Management” may be a recent invention, Rob Paterson shows how the principle was working effectively long, long before the days of computers and databases. Perhaps, indeed, it was working a lot more effectively than today, since people rather than machines were at the heart of things.

“…Information is cold, based on a document, and contains only the narrow explicit. Personal advise is warm, based on a relationship, and contains the full tacit knowledge of the advisor. The interaction with information adds nothing to the whole. A conversation with an advisor teaches both more. Managing documents is a process of diminishing returns. Encouraging communities of interest appears to have no limit…”

“…I like the story of New Bedford in its heyday as a whaling port. It is for me the epitome of how best to set up the conditions for a true knowledge-based society. Whaling in the age of sail, as anyone who has read Moby Dick will recall, was a business that demanded many extreme skills: not the least of seamanship - being away for up to 3 years in the world's most challenging oceans. Whale hunting itself, the use of small boats, harpooning etc. Whale processing - imagine fooling around with a flensing knife? Finding whales was an art. The entire business aspects not the least chandelling and selling oil products into a global market. What was special about New Bedford?

"New Bedford today is a sad town but for well over 150 years, a very long time, it was arguably the wealthiest community in America. It had organized itself deliberately as a series of interlocking communities of practice…”

Read more of Rob’s post to find out just how this “series of interlocking communities of practice” worked…

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