In the movie “Men in Black,” Kay (played by Tommy Lee Jones) told Jay (played by Will Smith):
“Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.”
Our beliefs about the world keep changing. Chances are, our beliefs today are not final; something better will be discovered in the future. KM guru Ikujiro Nonaka defined “knowledge” as “justified belief that increases an entity’s capacity for effective action.” And so, our knowledge is exactly that: beliefs. Tomorrow, better beliefs can replace our current beliefs if the former justifiably work better or they help us produce the results we say we want.
For example, many of us claim we want world peace. As 2009 started, we see violence and mayhem continuing in the Gaza Strip. Are our beliefs contributing to, or are they unwittingly sabotaging, the results we say we want?
World Bank data show that the world economy is now creating more wealth from services than from industry or agriculture. Value creation has become knowledge-based. We observe that even Al Qaeda uses KM. But the US Pentagon also uses KM. What does this tell us about KM? What questions do we need to ask about KM?
The titles under this blog series are in the form of questions to invite you, the readers, to participate not only by offering other answers but also by asking better questions or reframing the issue in ways others may have missed. Thus, this Q series is not intended to be a one-way blog, but an opening to dialogue with and among readers. It is an opportunity to talk about how we think and what assumptions we make about what we see around us (or “seeing how we see”). It is an invitation to dialogue.
We saw in blog D19 (“Debate versus Discussion versus Dialogue”) that dialogue is about open and candid conversations about our beliefs, assumptions, judgments and values. Dialogue — not discussion and certainly not debate — is how a diverse group can recreate their shared social reality. Being conscious and candid about our judgments, values and intentions is an essential step in dialogue. It is also useful for resolving conflicts and saving lives.
Let me give a real world example.
In the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel occupied the Golan Heights (from Syria), the West Bank (from Jordan) and Sinai Peninsula (from Egypt). Egypt wanted the Sinai back; Israel won’t yield it — a clearly irreconcilable difference in positions. Through the “shuttle diplomacy” of Henry Kissinger in 1974-75, Egypt and Israel reached an agreement. How was it made feasible? The answer: by each side being explicit about their values or interests. Egypt wanted to regain sovereignty over its territory; Israel wanted security of its borders. The creative solution reached in the Sinai Accords: return the Sinai Peninsula back to Egypt but demilitarize it. The result is a peaceful kind of modus vivendi between Egypt and Israel that has endured since.
There are unexpected results, by the way. It may have led to the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. Some groups believe that by entering into a US-brokered agreement with Israel, he had compromised Arab-Islamic unity and the Palestinian cause. It also provided a homeland for 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip — where military conflict is raging at this very moment (January 4, 2008).
Knowledge management and organizational learning (KM/OL) are about facilitating people-to-people communication and creation of knowledge. Knowledge is about what works, especially what works better. In a context of diversity of views and interests, dialogue is a route to discovering what works better among all concerned. If peace is what we all say we want, dialogue is one of the tools to get us there. Dialogue is about a group discovering better beliefs. As we saw in blog D19, an essential skill in dialogue is being explicit about our assumptions (what learning organization guru Peter Senge calls “mental models”), beliefs and thinking processes (what Senge calls “left-hand column”) and how we reached our conclusions (what Senge calls “ladder of inference”) — so we can all examine them together. Another skill in dialogue is the ability to be explicit about our interests and intentions. Still another is being able to distinguish between statements of facts (descriptive or explanatory: what is) and statements of values or judgments (prescriptive or normative: what should be).
More than these, dialogue among political enemies require courage to come together and talk. Adam Kahane described (see: “Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening, and Creating New Realities”) how warring political leaders in South Africa came together to dialogue about the future course of their country — a fateful meeting that made possible the subsequent and historic end of apartheid and the rise of Nelson Mandela.
I invite readers of this blog to a practice of dialogue applying the practices of KM/OL on real-world issues. In the next blog posts, I encourage readers to post their comments for all to see. The next blog titles are phrased as questions to invite you to provide alternative answers, or to ask alternative questions, or to offer alternative ways of viewing an issue. The questions connote inquiry instead of final conclusions. After all, it is likely many of our cherished beliefs today will be gone and replaced by better beliefs tomorrow — if not by us then by our children and grandchildren. It took the Vatican more than 350 years before apologizing to Galileo and it took the Soviet Union more than 70 years to see that central planning does not work better. As what Kay told Jay in the movie, sooner or later, people eventually recognize that some beliefs work better than others.
Here are the topics I plan for the Q series. If a topic had been written, it will have a link you can CLICK to get to it or you can SCROLL down to read it.
Q1- What is KM for?
Q2- KM is for creating value; whose value?
Q3- “The customer is king”; but the king is blind!?
– Practical KM hints (#4)
Q4- How Toyota beat(?) GM in sensing customer needs
Q5- Market value and/or(?) development value
Q6- KM for development: a triple(?) bottom line
Q7- We found the enemy: our own concepts!?
– Another practical KM application (#5)
Q8- Wanted: workable tools for conscious paradigm shifting
– Practical KM hints (#6)
Q9- An exercise in team learning: some/the(?) root causes of September 11
Q10- “Power of the Third Kind” for political conflicts?
Q11- Social capital: peace creation = value creation?
– New KM e-book
Q12- Clash of civilizations or dialogue among civilizations?
– Generative dialogue: let’s get practical (#7)
– Practical hint #8: Watch a Sacha Baron Cohen movie!
Q13- Learning = KM + “Power of the Third Kind”?
– Practical KM Hint #9: Post-Project Knowledge Capture
– Practice #10: Sensing the emergent
Q14- Naming trans-societal Megatrend #1: “towards yin”?
– Practice internal watchfulness (Hint #11)
– Practice internal double-loop learning (Hint #12)
Q15- Senge’s journey: from learning to presencing?
– Your peak life experiences (Hint #13)
– Your peak work experiences (Hint #14)
– Limits of the possible
Q16- Seeing world problems: building(?) on Gregory Bateson
– Practical exercise #15: Ingredients of effective group action
– Practical hint #16: Knowledge transfer from senior retiring staff
Q17- Losses in community assets: the mother is suckling(?) from the baby!
Q18- Negative(?) metacapital #1: corruption
– The movie Groundhog Day
– Gaia consciousness
– Tacit-group processes in KM
Q19- Negative(?) metacapital #2: the threat of a nuclear war
Q20- Israel versus Hamas and Hezbollah: lessons(?) in relationship capital
– Building Israeli-Palestinian relationship capital
– Practical hint #17: Tools for managing relationship capital
Q21- Rediscovering a core(?) of human capital: “sophia”
– For complex development problems: We need bridging leaders
– A value driver behind relationship capital
Q22- $8.3 trillion: cost to Americans of disinvestment in trust?
– War: consequence of negative relationship capital
– Towards a global balance sheet
– Refining estimation of global stock of knowledge assets
– It’s the knowledge economy, stupid!
– From corporate disregard to corporate embrace of stakeholder capital to socially-embedded corporations
Q23- Know-how (= knowledge) without “willing-to”
– A success factor in KM: motivating knowledge workers
– Cutting the (complex) Gordian Knot
– 12 Types of learning
– Practical KM hint #18: Mindmapping our learning processes
Q24- KM and power: constant(?) bed fellows
– More power to glocals!
Q25- Robin Hood versus the Sheriff of Nottingham
– Value-creating and value-destroying social innovations
– KM practice #19: Techniques in knowledge innovation (or: You experience how Da Vinci thinks)
– Practical Hint #20: Consider the power dimension in KM
Q26- Information: another force for democratization (trans-societal Megatrend #2?)
– KM and trans-societal megatrend #1
– Four types of memory
– Knowledge pathways in a learning organization (#21)
– Knowledge pathways: 3 case studies (Practical Hint #22)
– Appreciating Nonaka’s SECI model (#23)
Q27- Combining Megatrends #1 and #2: the next societal innovations?
– Evolving forms of governance
– A paradox in 20th century scientific practice
– Left-brainers and Nonaka’s “ba”
– Emerging indigo practices
Q28- Recap of KM virtues and gaps, or will KM disappear?
What do you think?
Comments, questions, suggestions and alternative ideas are welcome. Let us have a dialogue, or at least a discussion, but let us consciously evade being trapped into a debate (see: “D19- Debate versus Discussion versus Dialogue”).