Thursday, September 22, 2005

Learning Disabilities

From Peter Senge's book The Fifth Discipline.

Seven learning disabilities
1 - I am my position
When people in organizations focus only on their position, they have little sense of responsibility for the results produced when all positions interact.

2 - The enemy is out there
It is a by-product of “I am my position”. When actions come back to hurt us, we misperceive it as externally caused.

3 - The illusion of taking charge
If we become more “proactive” and aggressive in fighting the ”enemy out there”, we are reacting. True proactive ness comes from seeing how we contribute to our own problems.

4 - The fixation on events
The primary threats to our survival, both organizations and of societies, come not from sudden events but from slow, gradual processes.

5 - The parable of the boiled frog
Case for “Fixation on events”

6 - The delusion of learning from experience
Primary consequences of our actions are in the distant future, which it becomes impossible to learn from direct experience. Dilemma in organizations: We learn best from experience but we never directly experience the consequences of many of our most important decisions

7 - The myth of the management team
Maintaining the appearance of a cohesive team. They seek to squelch disagreement. Most managers find collective inquiry inherently threatening. School train us never to admit that we do not know the answer, and most corporations reinforce that lesson by rewarding people who excel in advocating their views, not inquiring into complex issues. ( When was the list time someone was rewarded in your organization for raising difficult questions about the company’s current policies rather than solving urgent problems?). If we feel uncertain or ignorant, we learn to protect ourselves from the pain of appearing uncertain or ignorant. That very process blocks out any new understanding which might threaten us. The consequence is what Argyris calls “skilled incompetence”– teams full of people who are incredibly proficient at keeping themselves from learning.

The Learning Organization

As mentioned before, the successful implementation of this knowledge theory in a corporate environment could only be possible if we include Learning Organization's theory explained by Peter Senge's book "The Fifth Discipline". I only make a short overview of the main disciplines and what a Learning Organization is about. There is a tremendous amount of material behind the concept.
Definition : organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together. (PS)

Some companies try to make an approximation to this , an example is GE: "The second management concept that has guided us for the better part of two decades is a belief that an organization's ability to learn, to transfer that learning across its components, and to act on it quickly is its ultimate, sustainable competitive advantage. That belief drove us to create a boundary less company by de-layering and destroying organizational silos. Selflessly sharing good ideas while endlessly searching for better ideas became a natural act.“ Jack Welch
Former Chairman and CEO, General Electric Company
In summary:
The organizations that will truly excel will be the ones that discover how to tap people's commitment and capacity to learn at all levels in an organization. Learning organizations are fundamentally different from traditional authoritarian "controlling organizations." (Peter Senge)

Personal Mastery: Is the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision and focusing our energies to develop patience and seeing reality objectively. People become committed with their own lifelong learning. Mental Models: are deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, or even images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action. Includes the ability to carry “learningful” conversations that balance inquiry and advocacy, where people expose there own thinking effectively and make that thinking open to the influence of others. Building Shared Vision: The leadership skill most understood for thousands of years that inspired organizations has been the capacity to hold a shared picture of the future we seek to create. When there is a genuine vision, people excel and learn, not because they are told too, but because they want to. Team Learning: How can a team of committed managers individual IQ’s above 120 have a collective IQ of 63?The discipline of TL confronts the paradox. It starts with “dialogue”, the capacity of members of a team to suspend assumptions and enter in a genuine “Thinking together”. Systems Thinking: It is the discipline that integrates all , fusing them into a coherent body or theory and practice. Without it, there is no motivation to look at how the disciplines interrelate

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

About Experience

Here some definitions from

  1. The apprehension of an object, thought, or emotion through the senses or mind: a child's first experience of snow.
    1. Active participation in events or activities, leading to the accumulation of knowledge or skill: a lesson taught by experience; a carpenter with experience in roof repair.
    2. The knowledge or skill so derived.
    1. An event or a series of events participated in or lived through.
    2. The totality of such events in the past of an individual or group.

As I said before, experience is the byproduct of collaboration and a process, and it is a higher form of learning because all of your senses are participating and involved in the procedure. To gain experience you need an individual or a set of them actively and willing to participate through the process to gain full insight. When we are forced into an event, like an accident, or some unpleasant situation, the experience becomes a trauma. The word trauma means " An event or situation that causes great distress and disruption." Scott Berkun says good procedures make people more efficient, not less efficient. This is because we need a guide on how to go about doing things, and it is more efficient to have processes in place, than having people doing things differently each time.

Experience is living or going through a process from start to finish. You can share what you felt and learned from it. This is the part of knowledge that cannot be transmitted or "done for you". I like to see life as the perfect example. Life is the process we go through to learn from experiences that would not be possible other way, and from it we learn the good and the bad. We can write about the lessons we learned after it. To truly understand the meaning of something ,living the process is a whole different learning process, than that from study and reading. Some of us avoid it from fear of being hurt or causing hurt in others which prevents us from learning. (Insert here)

I recently had the experience of unearthing a deep fear that caused a series of behaviors that made me end up in two hospitals (Anxiousness). It was a very tough one day experience but one that taught me so many things, many years of study would not do.

What I found interesting from being in a hospital is that for many patients the cure came by intereacting and sharing their experiences with other patients who where somehow connected to your past life, not in the doctor or the therapy or drugs they prescribed. In my experience, people that had parallel lives or something in common made the big difference in the recovery and the possibility of getting healthy again quickly was very high. Same goes with the ones that did not have anything in common with the patient. They did not help or contribute to the recovery. So in order to produce benefits there must be a common connection.

I used to think doctors did not know what they were doing (I was very wrong), not every doctor fails and they are not right many times either; I have found some that are really excellent at what they do, when they did experience the symptoms or had some similar experience are in a better position to treat it. Others have a very wide exposure to many people, allowing them to learn many aspects from them.

Going back to experience, we can discover that Expertise comes from ΣExperience or the sum of experiences that you go through.

This is a good example that illustrates an area in live where experience is really crucial for people’s health recovery stories.

Experience in general is :

  • A bigger teacher than theory alone.
  • HARD
  • to earn: It gives you the test first and the lesson second.
    • Learning to ride a bike caused me plenty of falls, scratches and pain. The feeling of accomplishing it at the end was indescribable.
  • In NY, nobody wants to prevent you from going through the process” they experienced because it is usually tough.
  • Few willing to share it if it involves money (Earning or loosing).
    • This and in some cases because it is VERY... VERY expensive the learning process, which is the reason we are not inclined to share it with people so easily. We tend to give incomplete information about it depending on the level of suffering we were subjected to or the shame we felt. What I found through experience is that the more you share it with others , the better for your health.

In some cases, experience touches something called perception or tastes. This happens normally with movies. Some will like the movie, and some will not. The difference between reading a book or watching a movie, is in the side of the brain working. Reading is a left side ability, while movies kick in on the right side. This is the reason why children should not be allowed to watch tv until their brains are fully developed. Images are a more powerful catalizer in the brain than book stories, because when you read you are actively using your imagination, when watching a movie or tv you are not an actor, you are a receptor. (Insert here reference last child of the woods)

In summary , the efficient storage of data and information combined with other elements (Experience, collaboration and technology) constitutes the base and foundation for human rational knowledge today.


It is finding the balance and learning to use the two sides of the brain. In the dictionary we find that wisdom is "accumulated knowledge or erudition or enlightenment 2: the trait of utilizing knowledge and experience with common sense and insight".
For me it is the trait of utilizing reason , experience, and intuition with common sense and insight. (Insert reference)

Knowledge Concepts II

In this section I go deeper into what the relation is between the concept and how we could build into a future technology.

Even though we have knowledge = information + experience, which is for sure something an individual can accomplish on his own, I will call this knowledge k, and when you bring collaboration in we’ll call it K (with upper case), because you will have an expanded view of many people experiences and points of view, which make what you learned a wiser piece of knowledge and confirms it’s validity. If there are any exceptions, you will more likely find about them when collaborating with others.

K= Data + Processes + Collaboration. Let me say that knowledge is not represented by them, but their interactions, same way a system is defined. If you take an elephant and divided it in two, you do not have two elephants. . This means that data only, or processes or collaboration do not give you knowledge, only the interaction between the three will. Collaboration is what we’ve been missing to make it successful in practice when working in a team.

There are additional elements to consider when interacting with knowledge from the technology perspective. These are:

Interface: it represents the medium and the form that we are using to access the systems information. In the past it was a book, today means a computer, or electronic device used to access information. The key aspect of it is it's flexibility and adaptability to any situation, so that people will always be able to read the information presented.

Find: I like more this word than "searching" because you can search forever and never find anything meaningful. Finding means just that, been successful at searching something, sorting it out, and extracting what you are looking for. Google makes a great job at bringing us relevant results based on the value it calculates from the connections or hyperlinks in pages around the web. That is a good first step into what the future could bring, easy tools that allow us to scan and FIND all the information universe.

Generating Knowledge

The Amazing Jelly Bean Experiment

Treynor asked his class to estimate how many jelly beans there were in a jar. When added together and averaged, the group's estimate was 871— there were 850 beans contained within the jar. Only one student had made a better guess (a rogue genius, if you will). The now historic jelly-beans-in-the-jar experiment showed invariably that a group estimate is superior to the vast majority of individual guesses on a consistent basis.

Granted, there are limited situations in which knowing the amount of jelly beans in a jar is a significant accomplishment. Nevertheless, this example can be found a book by James Surowiecki called The Wisdom of Crowds. In his book, Surowiecki demonstrates myriad situations where the many are smarter than the few.

"If four basic conditions are met, a crowd's 'collective intelligence' will produce better outcomes than a small group of experts, Surowiecki says, even if members of the crowd don't know all the facts or choose, individually, to act irrationally. 'Wise crowds' need (1) diversity of opinion; (2) independence of members from one another; (3) decentralization; and (4) a good method for aggregating opinions." —Publisher's Weekly

To validate knowledge, we need to share it with many others and aggregate feedback because they will attest through their own experience (and not only logic) that the information you present is true or need some adjustment; in the diagram below only when you combine information + experience + collaboration or K=D+P+C, then you’ll get validation and better comprehension of a given theory and practice. In other words, you can learn something new through I+E , but you’ll find that there are situations where either it does not apply, or there are other conditions that you as a group need to take into account. Much like developing a new device, only when many people use it under different circumstances you’ll learn how to make it better. Even if your team is talented, they won’t be able to come up with every possible situation where the device might fail. Knowledge is only useful to humanity in the degree you share (it) and collaborate with others. The more you collaborate, receive feedback and incorporate others ideas, the more proof and wisdom you’ll have.

With these elements clear, from the IT perspective, we can transform the concept into a real software application that might transform the way we work today.

The Internet is proving what collaboration is capable of. As of today (May 2006) I can find many examples where the Internet is breaking every paradigm and industry upside down. Real state, publishing, Sales, marketing, just name it, and you'll see a tidal wave coming if not already happening. This is the effect of human collaboration at great scale.

The Model

The interaction generates information between data and collaboration and data and processes. In a big sheet of data, bring it into Excel(Computer program), and then make operations like Sum, Avrg, or filter the information, sort it, etc. You get information (more insight) from applying a process (in this case math operation) to the data. Same can be said about having data and collaboration. Sitting in a room with a team of people and sharing data, can give you valuable information, but different from what you get by applying a process. There is a limitation in how effective is having many people in one room sharing data, as automated processes can deal with vastly more data in a short period of time than what many people can quickly exchange through words. By simply having data combined with collaboration you get more insight, but still, you need process(es) to gain accurate information.

The interaction between processes and collaboration is what I call experience. Many iterations of it bring expertise. An example: Let say you want to take the bike you learned to ride and want to go up the mountain. The process defines that you will be successful and gain experience only if you finish going from the bottom to the top. If you decide to stop 1/4 or half way, is not the same as if you complete the journey or ultimate goal, the top of the mountain. Another example is the process of buying a house. The goal is to purchase a property and have it under your name. Going through the steps but falling short at closing, does not mean you already "know" how to buy a house. Finishing the process is important in earning true experience, if you don not , then you only know parts of it. One byproduct of not completing the process is cost. In the bicycle example would be psychological cost, in the house example is monetary cost and probably both.

All elements interacting as a whole is what makes rational knowledge come true from different points of view (ways of thinking), opinions, and experiences.

There are three major areas in modern society that generate knowledge. Those are: Scientific Community, Marketing research companies and intelligence agencies. Two are prime examples of the model and one is a sad example of what happens when you have two out of three elements. First example: the scientific process or discovery. After developing a theory through observation or practice and after gathering data through trials, experiments, etc, the scientist creates a paper, or document detailing his (her) findings. The reason of publishing in a magazine is to have a wide audience so that ideas can be refuted or enhanced. I call it performing wider collaboration. You want people to collaborate with feedback on your ideas to see if there are holes or parts missing ( as I did in this book), or if there is some unknown case where the theory does not apply.

The Internet is the by-product of scientists wanting to collaborate with a wider audience , making it even easier to accomplish it, and it is why Tim Berners Lee created the World Wide Web html scheme (and did not patent it or charged for it). The Internet is the biggest collaboration project in human history. The effects are rippling through every business, forcing many to reassess and rethink every business strategy from scratch.
The second example: Marketing companies like Gartner, IDC, and Forester rely on collaboration to bring insights to their clients. That insight comes in the form of surveys that when combined with statistical research, data and other elements provide extremely valuable insight or knowledge to someone. People have to be willing to fill out the surveys, in order to get meaningful and accurate data.

Some people do not see how collaboration plays a role in acquiring knowledge. One way of testing the theory 'without collaboration you do not have knowledge' is by looking at what happened in 9/11. Simply put, a lot of intelligence agencies had a lot of information, but no sharing and collaboration was taking place. Hence you actually don't "know" what is going on in order to take Action. So if you have information , but do not share it and collaborate around, the outcome is simply you still have information, because many times the person responsible in doing something about it is not the same one holding the information in this case. Hence, knowledge (the rational side of it) requires collaboration between groups so that proper action can be taken. This translates into "the wider the audience, the more points of view you get, the closer to actual knowledge you will get”. Another example I remember reading on the web, was about how the military use scientists to discover secrets on advance technologies (Flying devices) they have but that they did not create. In a very secretive environment, they expect a single scientist locked in a room to come out with all the knowledge on how these advanced technologies were built. My conclusion from it is that in a secretive setting, you can't go much further in understanding the unknown without collaborating with more people.

Case study

As the revised definition mentioned before, rational knowledge is about information and experience, we should be able to prove that this is true.

The Apprentice was a TV program in 2003 defined as a sixteen-week job interview, where eighteen people competed in a series of rigorous business tasks, many of which include well known companies and require information and experience to conquer, in order to show Donald Trump (the host/boss), that they are the best candidate for his company. In each episode, the losing team was sent to the boardroom, where Trump and his associates, judge the job applicants on their performance in the task. One person was fired and sent home each week.

If you missed it, was a very compelling program and very entertaining. I believe you can get a DVD with some additional footage. It is this very theory being put into practice.

When they decided (lucky for us) to build two groups with the condition to have "Book smarts"(Those with Information) Vs Street smarts (Those with Experience) I bet they did not know they would help us a lot!. It gave us a “Case study" to observe in real life how the two are related in normal people that were not acting up. Clearly people with more experience survived longer, but at the same time showed how women and their intuition steam rolled men at the beginning.

Two people lasted until the end, Bill and Kwame. Of the two,-- clearly-- Bill was selected because he had a more balanced background (Education + Experience) against Kwame, and the results showed. Bill had the book smarts (Information) and the street smarts (Experience) that made him the final winner.

The Basic Concepts

Gary Klein observed in his book How people make decisions (MIT Press,1999) that project managers rarely have enough information and time to make decisions (Using methodologies) work. They have four things: experience, intuition, training and each other. He thought they make good decisions by maximizing those elements. He mentions the two types of knowledge --rational and intuitive, and experience/training or education plus each other (Collaboration) as the way you can make decisions based on all the knowledge available.

Rational Knowledge

In very simple and practical terms, knowledge is INFORMATION plus (+) EXPERIENCE (T. Davenport et al., 1998). This means both k=i+e. To be useful knowledge (K), information and experience needs to be shared with others; in the diagram below only when you combine information + experience + collaboration or K=D+P+C, is when you get useful and actionable knowledge. In other words, you can learn something new, but how useful it is or not and how accurate it is depends if you are the only one that knows about it. Knowledge is only useful to humanity in the degree you share (it) and collaborate with others. The more you collaborate and receive feedback, the more complete (Proof and Wisdom) that knowledge will be.

If we come to agree on the elements, from the IT perspective, we can transform the concept into a real software application that will transform the way we work today.

Information: The principal component of it is DATA. As you know data does not tell you much individually. But if you take a bunch of it, and in general the bigger amount the better, and apply a process to it --Call it operation,process, etc--- you get as a result information. You get something a lot more valuable about what the pattern of the data is trying to tell you. This is in what information means as opposed as other definition equaling information with knowledge. Is only part of it.

Experience: means doing, going through a process or practicing the theory learnt through study. One key aspect of experience is that you have to be willing to go from start to finish on a defined process in order to gain full experience (A partially completed process does not mean you gained experience). Lets take riding a bike to the top of the mountain as the analogy. If you try to cheat or get tired, you will not gain 100% experience on the goal, cause the process defines you have to go from the bottom to the top, so here we define experience as completing 100% of a given process.
Learning by doing is one of the strongest ways of gaining insight meaning the brain will record "vividly" and you will remember about it more easily than when you read a book. The reason: Our brain records experiences in more detail because our body is involved instead of just the mind.

"In plain words, rational perception entails accepting and believing only what is true based on one's study, observation and experience. The knowledge derived through such an approach is rational knowledge. It should be pointed out that the process of attaining rational knowledge begins by having an open mind and by giving up blind faith and notions prevalent in society", by Jainism.

Other knowledge concepts which are similar. Knowledge is "information combined with experience, context, interpretation, and reflection. It is a high-value form of information that is ready to apply to decisions and actions." T. Davenport et al., 1998 "the insights, understandings, and practical know-how that we all possess – is a fundamental resource that allows us to function intelligently." Wiig, 1996.

Connecting the Dots

“In the long run, the only sustainable source of competitive advantage is your organization’s ability to learn faster than its competition.” Peter Senge.

This takes us to:
  • Your Ability to learn lies in the ability to nurture Team Learning
Which in consecuence show us that:

    • “Team Learning is vital because teams, not individuals, are the fundamental learning unit in modern organizations.” Peter Senge
      • Collaboration is the key for Team learning.


  • Barbie's measurements if she were life size: 39-23-33 cm.
  • The slogan on New Hampshire license plates is 'Live Free or Die'. These license plates are manufactured by prisoners in the state prison in Concord.
  • Montpelier, Vermont is the only U.S. state capital without a McDonalds.
  • The word 'byte' is a contraction of 'by eight.‘
  • The word 'pixel' is a contraction of either 'picture cell' or 'picture element.'
  • Ralph Lauren's original name was Ralph Lifshitz.
It makes waiting a lot more interesting..

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

What is the solution?

The solution falls in understanding the concept of knowledge in a non philosophical way.

Once we do that, we can explain a funding company or investor how we can create this technology platform for any organization to use.

A feasible goal is 100% Collaboration from 100% of people. This means letting information flow more freely and having all people share ideas. Many organizations believe that moving quickly will always keep you in the front, but I would say based on systems theories that it does not always apply -- the quickest theory I mean.

To accomplish collaboration you'll likely need:
Clear Concepts: By carefully using the right words with the right meaning which is understood by the team, you will have fewer problems later resolving them.
Better Leadership: Without better leadership we cannot pretend to go from point A to point B.
You'll need a New Framework (Learning Organizations) and Different model to work on if you want to be successful at having your employees contribute willingly to any technological platform. By combining a set of theories and practice, the Learning Organization model and it's disciplines are a clear path for tomorrow's organizational success.
Different and complete set of priorities L-V-S-P-R-S: By learning how to connect Leadership with Solutions, you can have a clear understanding on what the path should look like. Leaders primarily role is to create a Vision. That vision is the point where you want to go. To do this it must follow a set of Strategies based on facts and information about where you are and where you want to be. Then, you move to transforming those strategies into detailed policies and flows(processes) about how you want it done, what are the rules, and what are the exceptions to those rules and any special situation you can think of. The result can be then translated into a set of requirements that will detail the solution in a NON TECHNICAL LANGUAGE. Then and only then, you can call the technical experts to help you find out HOW to build the solution with TOOLS available or create new tools if nothing else is available.
Successful thinking model: By successful --as we saw before-- it means learning to define the why, what, where, how in a specific order. It means getting rid of the "Quick fix" mentality.
Collaboration is only fully effective in a “Learning Organization.

Technology Consultants

How this misunderstanding of words affect IT Consultants?.

  • Wrong answers to an undefined problem
    • When we try to give answers to something we have not defined as a problem , we run into trouble. In other words we try to connect the problem to the tool, not focusing the efforts into creating a solution explained in non-technical language.
  • Ethics are affected
    • As seen through practice, many people instead of having the courage to say no, or saying clearly that they do not understand, they continue working in projects that are not clear, maybe through ignorance/fear/other, but many times concious that the person they are trying to help has no idea. Isn't that what the consultant role is supposed to do?
  • Reputation
    • Clearly, from one project to another, people want to check your prior experience and solutions. Some customers force consultants into confidential agreements. The nature of our business is showing our prior work to future customers so that they can see how competent we consultants are to have confidence in the contract they are signing. It does not make sense.
  • Effectiveness: Making sure you check all fuzzy words used by the customer allows better communication and less errors.
    • I can't stress how important this is. I've seen cases where this happens where the outcome has not been positive.
  • Get ready for a hard landing. Lawsuits included (God forbids).
  • Definition: A consultant is a professional that provides expert advice in a particular domain or area of expertise. There are ocassions where the role of the consultant is not well understood by both parties, so there needs to be clear roles and responsibilities in each project to be effective in the long run.

Introduction to Knowledge from another perspective

Because the word knowledge is one of the most contentious topics people debate on (and for many thousand years), and it seems like a never ending discussion, I will include here a base for reasoning for us to be able to start somewhere with a solid reasoning foundation.

A Base for Reasoning

"All our ideas should produce good and lasting results and then anything that is good now would have been good in the past and it will be good in the future and it will be good under any circumstances, so any idea that does not cover all this broad base IS NO GOOD.

To be right, one's thought will have to be based on natural facts, for really, Mother Nature ONLY can tell what is right and what is wrong and the way that things should be.

My definition of right is that right is anything in nature that exists without artificial modification and all the others are wrong.

Now suppose you would say it is wrong. In that case, I would say YOU are wrong yourself because you came into this world through natural circumstances that YOU HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH and so as long as such a thing exists as yourself, I am right and you are wrong.
Only those are right whose thoughts are BASED on natural facts and inclinations."( Edward Leedskalnin, “A book in every home”, 1936)

In this line, Mother Nature teaches us that our brain (the place where knowledge resides) is divided into two hemispheres. Right and left. The right side of the brain handles intuitive knowledge ( Mona Lisa Md Phd Schulz, Awakening intuition - April 20, 1998), while the left side handles rational knowledge. (Fink, Marshall, Nature vol 382, p 626).)

Right Brain vs. Left Brain

This theory of the structure and functions of the mind suggests that the two different sides of the brain control two different "modes" of thinking. It also suggests that each of us prefers one mode over the other. Modern society (Western) today educates children focusing on the left side (Intellect) over the right side (Humanistic, arts) .
Experimentation (Fink, Marshall) has shown that the two different sides, or hemispheres, of the brain are responsible for different manners of thinking. The following table illustrates the differences between left-brain and right-brain thinking:

Left Brain Right Brain

Logical Random

Sequential Intuitive

Rational Holistic

Analytical Synthesizing

Objective Subjective

Looks at parts Looks at wholes

Most individuals have a distinct preference for one of these styles of thinking. Some, however, are more whole-brained and equally adept at both modes and many cases researches have found geniuses to be the ones using both sides. In general, schools tend to favor left-brain modes of thinking, while downplaying the right-brain ones. Left-brain scholastic subjects focus on logical thinking, analysis, and accuracy. Right-brained subjects, on the other hand, focus on aesthetics, feeling, and creativity." (, 2005)
Intuitive knowledge: Intuitive knowledge is viewed as insight that comes directly in dreams/images, gut feelings; those dreams are made of images. Here are some excerpts from the Internet; Intuition: way of knowing directly; immediate apprehension. The Greeks understood intuition to be the grasp of universal principles by the intelligence (nous), as distinguished from the fleeting impressions of the senses. The distinction used by the Greeks implied the superiority of intellectual intuitions over information received by the senses. Christian thinkers made a distinction between intuitive and discursive knowledge: God and angels know directly (intuitively) what men reach by reasoning. A person who has an intuitive opinion can not fully explain why he or she holds that view. Intuition is an unconscious form of knowledge. It is immediate and not open to rational/analytical thought processes. It differs from instinct, which does not have the experience element. An important intuitive method is brainstorming.

Rational knowledge: Please jump to basic concepts section.


1- There are two types (Forms) of knowledge, based on our brain.

Rational knowledge - Left hemisphere

Intuitive knowledge.- Right hemisphere.

We'll look deeper into rational knowledge and how it gets generated in the next sections.

Some thoughts

I've been trying to update Wikipedia, but I see that you have to have a "encyclopedic" term to be left alone. What I find distressing is that people who studied a lot about philosophy thinks they have the knowledge and or somehow want to hijack the term. I would like to remind them that they only have a lot of information. Knowledge only comes when they practice all that theory they learned. Then again, I will describe knowledge in practical terms later... conclusion, is no easy task to make them open their mind to something not covered by epistemology...

I love wikipedia. I think is great and they have done a tremendous job. But I think they've lost track on how the collaboration can be better handled. I realize is no easy task, but they are showing us through practice at least how to start doing it. What I mean is you'll understand something when you learn a theory and then practice it. It is very confusing and complicated the writings you find in their knowledge page. There is no simplicity and no subdivision of the term. I hope I can help a little in these pages with material from the practice of implementing knowledge rather than just thinking about it. Maybe someday someone will take Wikipedia to a new level, where collaboration takes into account the majority of people through a voting system.

About Wikipedia

Wikipedia is a site intended to let anyone write and edit any article. Some of you might not know what it is, but Wikipedia's statistics are very interesting. Here are some statistics. It is a powerful example of collaboration.

“It was doomed to fail, because communities can't be created by editorial structures - editorial structures must be created by communities.” LA Times.

“This is a classic failing of old school media thinking. Sure, folks could build on top of the Times' editorials, but then again, why would they? The reason folks build stuff is to build it together, and to do that, they have to know one another, have a shared set of mores, have a conversation that is already going.

A far better approach would have been to create a platform for readers to create their own communities. Leaders will emerge, voices will break out, and conversations will get started. Then the community itself will have a sense of ownership of the media, and begin to moderate out the trolls. It's one thing for the LA Times to kill the trolls - that feels like censorship. It's another for the community itself to do it.” Caterina Fake, founder Flickr.

I love Wikipedia. I think is great and they have done a tremendous job. But I think they've lost track on how the collaboration can be better handled. I realize is no easy task, but they are showing us through practice at least how to start doing it. What I mean is you'll understand something when you learn a theory and then practice it. Relying only on editorial experts telling us what is valid will not be useful in the long run. A platform where everybody can voice their understanding and experience will. I can imagine following the same principle of being able to edit and posting your definition of a word, but instead of having a few individuals rejecting it without proper analysis, having many people read it and voting for the definition they understand the most will promote the best definitions. Then you could reach a consensus by the thousands, and not by just a handful of people. The most voted (Comprehensive) would make it to the top.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Current definitions.

From Wikipedia... (This changes daily, so click here to see the most recent).

Knowledge is the confident understanding of a subject, potentially with the ability to use it for a specific purpose. The ability to know something is a central (and controversial) part of philosophy and has its own branch, epistemology. On a more practical level, knowledge is commonly shared by groups of people and in this context it can be manipulated and managed in various ways.

From Britannica:

a posteriori knowledge
knowledge derived from experience, as opposed to a priori knowledge (q.v.).
a priori knowledge
in Western philosophy since the time of Immanuel Kant, knowledge that is independent of all particular experiences, as opposed to a posteriori knowledge, which derives from experience alone. The ...
perhaps the foremost work on Buddhist logic and epistemology, written in the 7th century. The Pramana-varttika is the chief work of Dharmakirti, originally a southern Indian Brahman.
Agama post-Vedic scripture conveying ritual knowledge and considered to have been revealed by a personal divinity. Shaivite scriptures, dating probably to the 8th century, are particularly so designated, ... abhijna
in Buddhist philosophy, miraculous power obtained especially through meditation and wisdom. Usually five kinds of abhijna are enumerated: the ability (1) to travel any distance or take on any form at ... Royal Society
the oldest scientific society in Great Britain and one of the oldest in Europe, founded in 1660. It began earlier with small, informal groups, who met periodically to discuss scientific subjects. The ... gai saber
the art of composing love poetry; especially the art of the Provençal troubadours as set forth in a 14th-century work called the Leys d'amors. The Old Provençal phrase gai saber is associated with ...
from the salvation article
Religions that trace the ills of man's present condition to some form of primordial error, or ignorance, offer knowledge that will ensure salvation. Such knowledge is of an esoteric kind and is ...
Transmitting knowledge
from the technology, history of article
In the ancient world, technological knowledge was transmitted by traders, who went out in search of tin and other commodities, and by craftsmen in metal, stone, leather, and the other mediums, who ...
from the Locke, John article
Some ideas are not of things outside the mind but are reflexive and internal. Locke finds it necessary to classify these in Book II and in doing so sets down the foundations of empirical psychology. ...


knowledge n : the psychological result of perception and learning and reasoning [syn: cognition, noesis]) Pronunciation Key (nlj)
n. The state or fact of knowing. Familiarity, awareness, or understanding gained through experience or study. The sum or range of what has been perceived, discovered, or learned. Learning; erudition: teachers of great knowledge. Specific information about something. Carnal knowledge.

The problem we had have in IT , is that these definitions do not translate into bits and bytes and into a practical model we can build. As Scott Berkun writes in his book The art of project management, about the principle from a 12th century philosopher William of Occam whose credited with using the notion of simplicity to drive decisions (as reviewed earlier). "He believed that people often add complexity to situations even though it doesn't help to resolve them. He suggested that the best way to figure out things out was to find the simplest explanation and use that first because, most of the time, it was the right explanation. "
"Occam Razor refers to the process of trying to cut away all the unneeded details that get in the way and return to the core issue at the heart of the problem. It also implies that the solution with the greatest odds of being best is the one that has the simplest logic". I hopeful that what I am writing about knowledge follow this principle.

What does success looks like?

When you are looking at consequences you have two choices, either you try to find a quick answer, or you scour deep what is the fundamental factor or reason that generated the problem. There are thousands of superficial reasons (or symptoms) why something fails, and in the American culture there is a tendency to blame someone else (“The enemy is out there syndrome”, see Learning Disabilities section). Here are some fundamental reasons I’ve found in my experience why Knowledge Projects (KM) fail.


Leadership has always played a key role in the success or failure of any project in history. In IT and especially in knowledge management projects, there’s primarily been a lack of information and experience about how to properly plan and execute them. They way it has been done is the same as any other IT project (trial and error). The fact that we had had rough times doing it proves how complicated it can get. Added to the mix, is the aggressive vendor sale pitch.

There are many reasons, but the biggest sin leaders commit is thinking technology IS a solution(Explained later).

Other reasons fall on the human side, meaning the way you involve, treat users, train and guide them through the process makes a big difference.

The transition from paper based processes to digital has posed as another challenge, and old traditions many times prevail.

Not understanding the big picture. Not asking enough questions about “What is the problem?”, where, why, etc. Where are the rules? What do we envision? What is OUR solution? What is our fundamental goal?

Maybe is the style of leadership we have been accustomed to.

“Show me a hero and I'll tell you a tragedy." F. Scott Fitzgerald.

A book by Joseph L. Badaracco “Leading Quietly: An Unorthodox Guide to Doing the Right Thing” looks at the opposite traits of leadership: restraint, modesty and tenacity shows us that what we see today might not be the ideal way to leadership. -If you look behind lots of great heroic leaders, you find them doing lots of quiet, patient work themselves. —Joseph L. Badaracco Jr.


Managers complain that people frequently hoard knowledge, fail to share it with others, and generally behave uncooperatively. In many implementations little involveme
nt is perceived from end users. In others, the system can barely keep up. Why the difference? The difference I found is in the rules and policies. In the first case, leaders put a lot of rules --who can see, not see, create, share, delete, etc information-- and those rules are completely absent in the second case. Now, in the second case people are free to express, subscribe, create, share, agree, and disagree on any topic posted. Results: The system can barely keep up with demand, meaning it is very successful as a knowledge hub.10-20 years ago (and even today) , we were told information is power. Now we are trying to push the opposite message with Knowledge Management. The result: We cannot force people to give away what they know, if they are not genuinely motivated to do so. An example: United 93's lesson yields knowledge is power “Knowledge is power, and pure knowledge must unite us.” Marc Dotson published May 30, 2006 The more we send this message to people, the harder will be the goal to share knowledge. Equaling knowledge to power, evidently will make people hold on to it, instead of sharing it, which is the key to collaboration, which in turn is the key to creativity. A twist to above quote could be “Knowledge power depends on our capacity to unite ourselves collaboratively” and would allow us to have more people actively share their knowledge with others.

Views and Concepts of people involved.

I am amazed about the misuse of words (my self included) everywhere and the lack of understanding in general of their dictionary meaning. If we decide not to pay attention to this fact, even trying to agree on what the problem is will be a challenge, because the words used to define it will have a different meaning for each team member, and the key to succeed is based on how well the team understands the problem. “Instead of thinking of ways to create a business, entrepreneurs should be thinking of ways to create value through solving a problem. And that is a deep, thorough process. "Half of all the energy we spend in inventing new business solutions is first figuring out the problem." Jay Walker inventor of and holder of more than 100 patents.

The way some editors write and use words that either contradict or mislead is bigger than I thought.
If not only the leaders, but the rest of the team believes technology is a “solution”, then they are bound to fail in the long term.

Discovering people believe technology = solution was shocking to say the least. I discovered this trend when sitting in various meetings, I kept listening to people talk about what the technology could do to solve the problem, instead of agreeing what the problem was in the first place and analyzing what was the goal. Even when I later asked about what was the fundamental goal, after a short pause Cristine would say “I do not know”. In another meeting, someone launched a question (maybe in desperation) that it would help me start realizing many things in this book: What does success looks like?

It was odd to say the least. Nobody responded. I kept thinking if there was an effective way to demonstrate it in simple terms. I decided to give it a try and started with a basic concept I am sure you all know. Success is the opposite of failure. Then I looked the other meetings discussions with technology and started to draw a map.
In Figure x , I typed technology and went back to the dictionary to check the meaning (Technology comes from techne (τεχνη) "craft" + logia (λογια) "saying" ) meaning the science abo
ut tools created by man applied in conjunction to solve a problem. Tools are not the solution itself, but the way you can create your vision.Technology is a tool that can change the nature of learning” Lynne Schrum. By observing people around, I could see that they wanted answers from the tool, that would give them the solution, and then they would look at the problem mostly at the end. I kept staring at the slide and for a moment and could not believe it. At the end of that path (Right to left), I wrote FAILURE. Why? Tools (or technology) cannot give you the -right- answers to a solution of a problem that has not been defined from the very beginning (See Diagram left) ; the view I have is that problem and solution should be formulated in a non technological language. The Problem, and the envisioned solution must be simple and clearly laid down for everybody to understand. Any confusion will make harder to implement the project.

Going in the opposite direction (as in the definition) chances are you will find success by clearly defining what the problem is, what the solution is, and then you start defining HOW you will build the solution with the tools or technology available. The how will likely have technical language. Not before.

In other cases I observed people trying to link a problem directly to a tool (Software) believing again that technology = solution;

There is a WHY in every problem. And most likely will be the motivational driver for the team involved in solving it. It is very important to discover the why.

I call this method the PST system (Problem ->Solution -> Tools)

The perfect problem solving analogy I like to use is transportation. Every body can understand the concept easily. How do we go from “here” to “there”. “What is the very first thing you need to do when you want to go from one point to another?”.

1. First thing you need to do is to define or find out where you are. Looks and sounds logical, but in the IT world not everybody does it or is willing to. Why? It can be a huge effo
rt just to know for sure where you are, especially in big corporations with terabytes and sometimes petabytes stored. So not every CIO is willing to do it because sometimes the cost can be out of question and even knowing what to look for can be confusing. This is when the underlying problems begin for any knowledge project.

* Point A : After looking around and asking questions I found I am in New York.
* In reality: many assume they know where they are and give the green light to start a project without carefully understanding the situation. This is risky to say the least.

2. Next step is to figure out or envision (definition:
imagine; conceive of; see in one's mind;) where you want to go. (This is the Vision in leadership terms), where do you envision you should be heading to.
In our example, we found that we have a problem being in New York and there is an urgent (defines timing) need to move to Los Angeles (solution). Now we know where we are heading. Next step is to define time. Time will set the pace (and cost) of your project. Do we need to do it ASAP? In some cases time limits the number of options the leader has to choose from.

3.If the requirement is to do it ASAP, then cost will be probably max out, and of all the range of tools that we can use, the list will probably come down to one in this exercise, a tool that provides the fastest way. The Airplane.

Look how the tool you choose is time dependant. If the question was two hundred years ago, the tool did not exist. A Train would be the answer

Reality: Let’s imagine the current and common situation in business, you know there is a need, but do not know yet how, and a consultant or vendor comes to you and tells you --"We have a very economic and efficient 'solution' for you. It is very affordable, it will take you anyplace you want, and it will last a for ever (good warranty). "--- great!! you say. That is what I need! Show me...

Vendor: -- Our solution is called "...a bicycle".

Many companies believe they need to select a software suite first With
out defining a whole range of policies and strategies—or the WHAT-- and thinking that the software will be flexible enough to accommodate their “future” requirements so that they can figure out how to make the trip to Knowledge Management easier and painless. This is my biggest concern and their biggest mistake. There is no such a thing as knowledge management in this world. Dealing with the word knowledge in the technology world is not as easy as many of the past IT projects. It involves people, and people will not provide their knowledge easily just because you try to force them with compliance and policies. It involves a lot more than just technology.

Tools & Technology

Software is a tool by definition, and it will never give you the keys (answers) to a problem and successful solution (Going to LA) if you do not know why, what, in the first place.

We should strive to check the dictionary for word definitions every time we see something we are not sure of, or if the words seem confusing.

Tools definition ( Devices, such as a saw that enables you to perform manual or automatic (Repetitive) tasks. I go on to displaying side by side Construction tools and Technology tools and their fundamental goal. In construction they are used primarily as a "Leverage" that allow you with minimal effort to apply great force, or speeds up a given task. In Technology is about speed, how you can do things faster with less errors and more convenience with less effort.
Making your project a vendor driven “solution” has generated a lot of confusion out there. This is the by-product of thinking technologies are solutions which is a big misconception.

I like to think that companies/organizations as people are all too different, so no application will perfectly work for all of them in a “one solution fits all” fashion.

After some experiences and analysis I came down to ask my self: What on earth is knowledge in the first place.

The more I asked the question, the more I realized there was no easy answer. It was striking to me finding this out; no one was very sure of themselves answering what knowledge means. We all seem to believe we "understand", looking closely , I found some inconsistencies that made the topic even more interesting, and a goal for me. Find out a simple way to explain what knowledge is, so that software can be redesigned to make it more useful. In the next sections we’ll look at some definitions.

Industry fuzziness: A case that shows evidence of how we build complexity (unnecessarily) into everything we do.

There is an inherent problem with us technology people and specially the ones that sell it. They need to have a new buzz word every year to make sure they can “wow” their customers into a new product (albeit being the same with more stuff added) and make the sale. This is good for business but terrible for simplicity, and effectiveness, because they (the products) get tweaked to make the sale but are more complex with each iteration. In many cases, companies have 20-30 different software applications which does not make sense. (See occam razor principle)

The other reason KM projects keep failing is because the fuzziness and lack of clarity software provides today

Here is an example of a content management convention:

• Content Management Architecture, Infrastructure, and Applications
• Data, Image, and Content Capture: The On-Ramp to an ECM Solution
• Centralizing Your Assets: Store, Retrieve, and Preserve
• Communicate, Collaborate, and Manage - "Can You Hear Me Now?"
• Making the Invisible Visible: Measure, Monitor, and Analyze
The fourth topic that talks about Collaboration is interesting. It is amazing the number of elements I found on each topic. In their webpage it stated:
• This theme provides advice, insight, and discussions about how to best share, route, deliver, secure, and control enterprise content so attendees can meet or exceed their compliance, operational, and performance objectives. Areas of particular focus include: email, Instant messaging, Web content, and Portals. Other sources of enterprise information and best practices for process and policy analysis are addressed.
• Workflow
• Document management
• Email management
• Instant messaging
• Collaboration tools
• Security
• Localization
• Syndication
• Personalization
• Publish
• Portals
• Case studies
• Versioning capabilities & controls
• Process planning
• Case/exception handling systems
• Cultural/organizational/ownership challenges
• Unlocking valuable information trapped in transactional systems
• Building a performance-accountable organization

It might be seen as useful software, but you can see it exists in many different pieces and no simple explanation how all of them work in conjunction, what is the whole picture, what does it accomplish, what is the problem, how should we start and no concepts behind them as to why they built it like that, and in general a one-solution-fits-all approach. We are stumbling again and again trying to connect a problem straight to a tool believing that’s the answer. IT people are “drowning” in techno speak believing that tools and technology are the solution.

Opening the Flow

“Companies need to consider opening their flow of information”, said Google Enterprise General Manager Dave Girouard

Product management has evolved from being formulaic, linear, scheduled and predictable, to being unpredictable, cyclical and revolutionary. That means companies need to rely on self-directed innovators and move forward quickly, often with little planning.
"You can't schedule innovation," Girouard said.
Google is making big noise on the products they are developing, and they are changing the "corporate paradigm" upside down.

"Companies need to attract, guide and retain self-directed innovators in order to succeed in the next 10 to 20 years. --Self-directed innovators-- who don't necessarily hold high-ranking positions have a wide influence within a company and can make things happen". "Those employees can't always recall details of all of the information they have come across so they need a photographic memory, collective wisdom and the world's information, he said. The way to deal with that, according to Girouard, is to allow information to flow more freely and quickly than it has in the past" he said. He outlined the top five ways to maintain an outdated business model. They are: restricting internal publishing by failing to provide a physical means to communicate or by instituting strict rules about gaining approval; requiring publishers to follow strict metadata standards; assuming employees will use systems because they're in place rather than letting employees' behavior give cues about what works, building overly complex interfaces, and restricting access when in doubt.

All of a company's information should be searchable by all "Innovators" which potentially can be anyone you employ.

About the Author

In the beginning…

I was born and raised in Colombia. I learned English in high school and, in part, my father pushed me to have a British accent which I never caught quite right. I graduated in 1996 as a Systems Engineer from the School of Engineering, a great university down in Bogotá. I now realize I was not fully aware what the career name meant or encompassed at the time.
I had a quick stint at a research lab finishing my thesis project when I got a call to come and work in a giant fast food US company as their systems analyst. It went well until I finished school and they decided not to raise my pay check as promised. Soon after that, I left in protest not before making a study to show they needed three full time people for the IT department, not one part time freshman.
It was my first experience learning about what the corporate world was about. If it is not in writing you can pretend it was never said. But after sometime I met some former colleagues that told me I probably made the best decision as they recounted how the morale had gone down since then. After doubting about the decision now I felt it was the right one. That first job was in essence do-it-all kind of thing. I managed everything in Information Technology (IT). Network, computer support, email, point of sales systems, everything; I always had some taste for having a broad knowledge for technology and I was been given the chance to put it into practice. I did not know how important that would be later on.
Soon after, I was called for an opportunity to do some training courses as a consultant to an oil company -- a big one that is. I did not think too much about it, they pay was huge compared to what I was making. Months before I met a top executive at another oil company that ignited my desire to be in the oil business, so I already had my mind set into it. The project: A huge migration from Apple to PC and we were the ones training everyone in the office. I was about to witness my first large full scale IT project. That would not be very unique if I didn’t tell you the migration was for two thousand plus people in less than three months. That is an enormous undertaking for any size of company.
They trained us how to train users, and it definitely helped me tune up my presentation skills plus a little of British accent refinement. I remembered how the trainers crinched when I kept coming with “gonna” instead of going to. Now, what it really made the difference in this learning process was that they brought a professional camera guy to film us so that we could see how we looked. Some people felt they looked like clowns. In summary, it was a hard and eye opening experience. At the end, the project was a tremendous success. Soon after I was transferred to work as a support analyst and part time Webmaster. As I said, the Internet was all the rage, and the top job you could think about on an Internet environment was being a Webmaster. What I did not know was how hard it was to become one. You had to know five different programming languages, and all sorts of additional skills, as in the beginning, the Internet was a big piece of “something” putted together with duct tape (the five languages). That means a lot of things failed. So you had to be very technical, but at the same time had to know about design and building “beautiful” looking pages. It was odd to me but a great challenge.
The guy doing the Webmaster juggling decided to leave to Canada very soon, but I did not get the job; they brought someone else with lots of experience in Internet programming and had been a former webmaster himself, so I kept wishing to get the top spot and see what it was like. After a while I finally got the job, but I was starting to get interested in the ERP arena where salaries where all the rage and the technology looked great. Funny thing, I never got very far with it. Call it destiny or something, although I was named the “Focal Point guy” for all ERP matters at my company after a big presentation by an expert explaining the Millions of dollars earned implementing ERP – something that made me not very popular among my peers--- I was never sent to training, because they knew I would be “stolen” soon after by another consulting company to a big mammoth job somewhere else.
Meanwhile I had to deal with this tool for document management that looked pretty interesting but that I did not see much of a future in the webmaster area (How wrong I was). The tool was called Livelink. In the late 1990’s I went from webmaster into being the tech lead guy for a big time project implementing Knowledge management technology (the Livelink product I mentioned) to the entire organization. In that time, KM was unknown to many people including corporations as the Internet was all the rage and this particular oil company was arguably the leader in implementing best practices due to their operational liability issues. This was-is a big and large oil and exploration company down in South America. Figuring out who was to be the project manager posed a challenge at a time those projects were non-existent, so managers decided that the best option would be to select a “traditional” operations manager from the field as the PM for this knowledge project. We soon found out this would not be the best answer, as too many things looked out of whack. We did not know how big and complicated the project could be as well . Many observers and colleagues warned me left and right about this project and its dangers, but I felt compelled to keep trying anyway. The one thing I was asked from the PM in charge to do was to come out with a budget.
In our culture, we are kind of afraid about money matters, so it was unusual for the tech lead to come up with a 1.5 million dollar budget. Given the risks involved, I made big numbers to counter those risks. That probably saved us from a disaster. In other words, if you know you are going to fail, just make sure you fail BIG as they say in Texas, it does not make sense to fail small, as you will not learn much out of it. In summary, the project had three different project managers (definitely not recommended on any kind of project), and we were lucky to have a system in place at the end with the best technology around cause we were able to bypass a long biding process and do it quickly. The only person working full time in the project was me which today sounds really crazy. We struggled to figure out what was the path to follow, so a lot was trial and error, but let me tell you that this method is not for the faint of heart. It is by far the hardest way of learning and the most expensive. That project was probably the first in the world (1997) in size and scope dealing directly and specifically with KM with absolutely no expertise around (I think they scoured the world around for consultants) to guide us without any luck. They found none.
But for some reason the top guy up there believed that I was responsible of the problems the project was having. That did not make me feel too good, so I decided to start looking for something else rather than waiting for the hammer to fall on my head. I was sure warned about it. It looked typical management stupidity where you start looking for the scapegoat (Shoot the messenger syndrome) instead of looking at how the project is structured. Luckily for me, my boss and managers from the consulting company where absolutely clear that instead of guilty I was brave enough for dealing with a crazy project like that. In the end it was straightened out by a very competent project manager—the third in a row. My first big lesson in project management: Make sure you know what you are doing, if not, bring the experts or don’t try it unless you are ready to fail.
Implementing the technology was exciting, new ways of dealing with information, figuring out how to best organize, capture, retrieve data, create workflow processes, etc. The number of things involved was growing and growing big in complexity. We were learning about the importance of interfaces, the users aspect of it, and how delicate was to migrate information from one side to another. There were unseen hidden links between groups of people that proved difficult to deal with without prior research. But again, I learned from the technical perspective as well as the business side.
After that, I’ve got an offer to come to the United States from a big tobacco company. I was very excited, and as always happen, the excitement transformed into frustration, the 2000 year US election proved to be a bump in the road for the papers that were delayed so much that the project I was called to join, dried out. After some calls, I landed a job as project manager for a big financial conglomerate. I had to move to a hotel and start working the next Monday morning in a different country, different culture, and make sure I produced results by the end of the week in a project with “again” unbelievable goals. Not recommended for the faint of heart . It stroked me the way their goals were set. They wanted to go “paperless” in less than four-five months. That is something bordering with craziness (first making the attempt) but I needed the job, and did not think too much about it. I have to say it was again very rough, as the project was already underway, I was coming in the middle of it replacing another PM, and they expected results probably in an hour, thinking that there was a proven method (Shall I say magic formula) of how to implement paperless projects in a snap. Today we know you can't possibly go paperless unless is a brand new company with a different leadership and mentality. For older companies you will always have a mix of paper and digital information.
Ok, so the reason the previous manager was removed, was because he did not agree on the way they wanted to move their information to this new technology. And he was probably right. But I had to do it anyway, so we went ahead and moved all files and folders into the system in less than a month. We did it, but with a lot of errors, because the tools used were not designed for that kind of massive uploading and there was no planning what so ever. Next, I found my self with another challenge; spitting out a fully detailed project plan with no lead time. I had no idea about how to come up with it because you cannot possibly foresee a plan without knowing where you are, their current state of matters, where you are going, and a team of people. In other words, you have to be there since day one as project manager to be able to figure out why, what, how, when, etc to do it and plan it right, but I did it anyway. I can think back now and tell you how crazy everything was. I do not know if heads rolled from the client stand point, but being a consultant kept you in a somewhat safe spot, at least in my case. Luckily they knew that just bringing in a new project manager and doing the same thing would not cut it; another hard lesson in the pocket but very valuable. I was sure learning the hard way how NOT to do Knowledge Management from customers and companies shooting up in the air. That was probably the time I started asking my self why they were doing it like that, and began to step back. I guess that is the way we learn about new things. We fail and fail until we learn a new way that works better.
After a couple of other small jobs 9/11 came and we got a (Sadly) 3 month vacation as everything and I mean every single project was shutdown. When I’ve got the offer for interview in New York later that year, everybody in my family had the terror look saying to me “Are you sure you want to go there?”, I thought to myself that probably the best place to be after 9/11 was precisely in NY, and there could not be any other safer place on earth.
In NY I was offered a two year contract, so we decided to move from our temporal residence in Maryland. The challenge: learning the inner working of a non-profit organization and fixing-guiding them through the tough KM waters. My first impression was that the pace and ways of working coming from the “outside” world were quite different to how the non-profit world behaves. Everything moved a lot more slowly. It was hard at the beginning but I adjusted and figured out the way you could move around and get things done. The technology was fixed, and the users where retrained with a different approach. It proved successful in the number of users using the technology, but at the expense of time. Still, many of the factors affecting KM applied here. It took a long time, as I was the only resource doing everything. I soon learned the value and power of having policies and procedures in place when there are none. Meanwhile I delivered a seminar on KM and in retrospective I realize how messy it must have sounded, but still today, I get people to my seminars that want to know what KM is all about.
It has been 10 years now, so let’s look at the lessons from the past and how I looked back to try finding a clear picture of what is wrong with KM and the definitions behind. Here are the lessons I’ve learned so far.