January 26, 2012

Is Old Knowledge Supporting Old Assumptions?

One of the things I enjoy about my job is the opportunity to read local English language newspapers around the world. I enjoy the different perspective that the newspaper take on the same topic. One that I was reading recently was about how the super powers might take a different approach to building their capabilities. As I read it I was reminded of the story of the Miginot Line. I have actually visited the remains of the Miginot Line and would encourage you do so if you can. It was based on a fairly simple assumption – the enemy will come from the direction in which our guns are pointed because it is impossible to bring an army any other way. Now we know from history that the enemy literally went around the Miginot Line and left it impotent. The same story also applies to the British guns in Singapore during WW2, they assumed that the enemy could only come from the sea. Unfortunately for them, the enemy didn’t agree with that assumption. In both examples the guns were fixed and couldn't be moved to confront the enemy coming from the other direction. My reason for mentioning these examples is that sometimes businesses are based on assumptions. The knowledge that the company values, is that knowledge which they believe supports the assumptions. But sometimes things happen that change the environment and cause the previous assumptions to be no longer valid. Unless the knowledge updated the business will very quickly decline. As we enter into the new year, perhaps it would be appropriate to reflect on the assumptions that your business is based on and the key knowledge that you value. Perhaps that knowledge is out of date and your knowledge management plans need to be updated.
Knoco Ltd

January 24, 2012

Hidden Gems

As part of my New Year resolutions I am trying to ensure that I become less of a hoarder. I am trying to balance ‘that might be useful sometime in the future’ with the ‘do I really need to keep that?’ As part of that campaign the proceedings of the 3rd Annual Conference, Knowledge Management for the Oil, Gas and Power (OGP) Sectors came to my attention. Now I have to say that the proceedings failed the first test; does that look good on the office bookshelf? The book has a pale blue, very plain cover, sort of thing you would find in a university research library. It doesn’t scream, ‘this is a book containing profound wisdom’ at you. But it does contain a paper by me so scores high on the ego charts (only kidding). Even then the title of the paper isn’t exactly inspirational eg In-depth Case Study: Sustainable organisational learning…global reach, local look and feel’. So should I keep it or consign it to the bin? Well I am going to keep it because if found a paper in it about using refinery process control systems to capture and retain ‘process knowledge’. We could have a long discussion about whether is this ‘true knowledge’ or ‘data’ but to be honest it doesn’t really matter what title you use, the key for me is ‘will it help the guys operating the plant do so in a safer, more efficient manner?’ Do you have any old conference proceedings sitting on your office shelf that perhaps might contain hidden gems, might be worth a look sometime soon? Knoco Ltd