Montag, 30. Mai 2011

Myths of Knowledge Management

To Gen Y folks KM seems so old that they are usually take KM for dead. To academics, and with every day one needs to think more of the history faculty than the economics, KM goes back to Nonaka (1991) and it is only the archeologists who claim to have extracted KM DNA from the bones of Peter Drucker (“Knowledge Worker” 1959).
Today I am here standing on the barricades of wisdom, shouting out for revolution: “The ancient Greeks deployed Knowledge Management!” Well to be fair, all ancient people were doing Knowledge Management.
Even without (or should I say “because of the lack of”) IT tools ancient people were doing Knowledge Management! Their instrument was story-telling. But not just any story would do, Zeus, Herakles, Odysseus, and Oedipus – no cheaper than the mythological superheroes were the ancient Knowledge Workers. However the knowledge was worked on them, instead of them on the knowledge. Ancient mythological cosmos forms a knowledge management framework.

Time travel from Greek heroes to fresh failures:
Recently, the most beautiful slides I had composed in order to sell a new KM concept to my leadership team. A smooth process oiled a machinery of roles and responsibilities, templates and checklist all towards a vital business purpose – with nothing more than friendly ignorance as result (Sounds familiar? – you most probably have read “Learning from failures – KM on slides has no value").
Only when we could tell a particular story, put real customers on stage, make feel the real pain, real value was shining, only when we told them a story, we were able to reach, we were able to transfer knowledge.
A story emotionally heads up and bonds with a stickiness that information simply does not have.

But what about mythology? The stories of Prometheus, Perseus or Ikarus are not in particular real? As a matter of fact(s), they do not really make a lot of sense, neither from the scientific point of view nor from historic perspective.
Indeed, here something very interesting has happened: While obviously information on its own was not (and still is not!!!) a good entity for Knowledge Management, information, the real facts, were compromised for more context, in order to transfer more knowledge.
Sounds crazy to you? Well, deliver a 50 pages document of top arguments beautifully arranged and precisely formulated to top management, and they rather rudely tell you to come back, when you have done your home work: 3 slides, not more than 5 bullets each!
Why does this work? Now it is down hill; most of it you find at Wikipedia "mythology" (just a bit of citing the right lines and leaving everything else not supporting my truth):
Functions of myth: Mircea Eliade argued that one of the foremost functions of myth is to establish models for behavior. Joseph Campbell defined myths as having four basic functions: the Mystical Function, the Cosmological Function, the Sociological Function--supporting and validating a certain social order; and the Pedagogical Function--how to live a human lifetime under any circumstances.
The are various theories (Euhemerism, Allegory, Personification, The myth-ritual theory) on the origins of myth, but they all share the view that myths are the result of a repeatedly executed refinement process.
Well, that’s the bell, history lesson is over, after the break, next post it is the writing class on storytelling.


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