Part of some notes on Larry Prusak's recent talk; see also PrusakConversation1 and PrusakConversation3:

  • The Greeks had three words for different types of knowledge:

  • metis — cunning, savvy, street-smarts ... like Odysseus * techne — craft, art, principles ... as in our word "technology" * epistime — science, universal rules
  • * Tacit knowledge can't be stated in words, and can't be learned except by experience, like how to ride a bicycle or hit a baseball. Tacit knowledge comes through heuristics. One acts, and then puts the results into a framework. (A flip side anecdote: "Peasants think that if you don't talk about something, it didn't happen.")

    • What do groups know? For an organization, "It doesn't matter as much what individuals know." Individuals come and go. What counts are norms for behavior, shared values, a sense of mission.
    • Organizations bend people. A single individual can only shape the thinking of an organization a tiny bit; but the organization has a huge effect on the individual.
    • The exception: the Founder of an organization can shape it — e.g., Edwin Land of Polaroid, Hewlett & Packard, Wang, etc. But what can go wrong? One risk: when the Founder is still around, a firm often doesn't question his choices enough. Consider Polaroid, Wang, Digital Equipment, etc.
    • "The press has it wrong" when they credit a new CEO with quickly changing an organization's culture. See de Tocqueville's Democracy in America; there's an excellent new translation, and the book has much truth, still valid today.
    • What gets carried on in a company? Practices, common ways of doing things, customs.
    • "Never underestimate the power of inertia and practice in life." That underestimation was Marx's big mistake. Isaiah Berlin wrote that the greatest shock to all thinkers of the 20th Century is [the persistence of] nationalism.
    • Artifacts and architecture are unrecognized storehouses of knowledge. Buildings carry messages of cultural feeling; so do office layouts. It's significant that more and more knowledge businesses are starting to look like university campuses.
    • Knowledge capital is increasingly seen as the key competitive advantage for a nation. Look at Malaysia, Ireland, and India 30 years ago; their economies were all based on subsistence agriculture and extraction of natural resources, and they were all poor backwaters. Now they're thriving centers of hardware assembly, software development, etc.
    • Literacy and its growth is a key underappreciated phenomenon in the world during recent decades.
    • The "command & control" form of organizational management was developed by Ford and duPont based on three existing models: the military, the railroads, and the Church. We still run our large organizations on that basis, but it's increasingly inadequate.

    Monday, October 23, 2000 at 05:57:10 (EDT) = 2000-10-23

    TopicOrganizations - TopicThinking - TopicSociety

    (correlates: MyMemberSays, LoveWindsAndFanService, TouchTheFlagpole, ...)