Knowledge isn’t Dead, Just Ask Google!

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I have great news to share.  Knowledge is not dead!  I asked Google.  It said it is close to dead.  In Thomas Davenport’s 2015 article, Whatever Happened to Knowledge Management, he commented that Google might be the one to blame.  I do not want to admit how many times today alone, I Googled something.  Why spend time thinking when you can have the answer at your fingers tips?  A colleague recently passed along a YouTube clip, Simon Sinek on Millennials in the Workplace.  Well worth the watch and perhaps I say that because I agreed with so much of what Sinek says.  Nonetheless, technology has made information readily more available in an instant.  Is having information knowledge?  Do we retain the information if we don’t have to work at getting it?

Weinberger (2011) stated that knowledge is made up of our belief in what we think is true.  The issues many of us face today is that there are very few people editing what is on the internet for example.  How do we assist those that we lead in managing what which information is true and what is inaccurate so that the knowledge being built is the right knowledge; knowledge that can benefit the collective good?  Weinberger and Nancy Dixon both echoed the sentiment for the need for diversity in those bringing knowledge to the conversation.  As Weinberger pointed out, we often like the thought of diversity until the diversity brings different points of view.  I fully agree with Weinberger’s comment that we need to have enough in common that those with opposing views will hear one another.  The challenge is finding the right mix.

As I continue to grow in my professional role, I find myself less interested in personally solving a problem and more interested in leading others to work together to solve a problem.  Harold Jarche (2010) commented that we need to do away with traditional management and teach people how to fish for themselves.  If I had to give my team a dollar for every time, I made that comment.  We need to help our employees to think for themselves, to utilize social media and other technologies to build a network of people that will challenge them to think and work together to solve something instead of looking for the quickest answer.  Jarche also stated that knowledge workers need to connect with others in order to solve problems as a group.

Davenport reminded us that some people don’t want additional knowledge and some people don’t want to share it.  As leaders in today’s world, we have an obligation to either change the culture or change the people.  There is not a lot of room for either of these types of people in a successful organization.  We need to surround ourselves and our employees in diverse networks. Weinberger commented, “networks can make us smarter if we want to be smarter” (2011).

 

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14 thoughts on “Knowledge isn’t Dead, Just Ask Google!

    • Dr. Watwood,

      My humble opinion is leaders are still primarily evaluated on if numbers are being realized. I believe that collaboration skills may be a part of the evaluation process but mainly if the lack of collaboration either by the leader or those they “lead” is hurting the bottom line. I am generalizing of course, but the mighty dollar seems to rule still. I feel that those leaders that can create opportunity with collaboration in mind are those that tend to be the most successful. Fortunately, collaboration is becoming more and more important. It is extremely difficult to accomplish anything on your own or within silos these days.

      Jason

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      • I actually think that there is not a dichotomy between the two, especially in a free market. If diversity makes decision making better, and good decisions increase the bottom line in an organization, then it makes economic sense to be diverse. This has played out in many companies. I am not fantasizing that good-ole-boy (and girl) networks do not still exist, but realize that these new technologies, diverse by their very nature, truly do democratize information enough to pressure them away (they will atrophy from their own negative value).

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  1. Thanks for sharing some great thoughts, Jason…and also the additional Sinek video!

    Access to information is indeed quick and easy. In one of my recent and more productive Google searches, I discovered (with little investment) Michael Wesch’s TEDx (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeaAHv4UTI8). He similarly noted that digital artifacts (in vast numbers) are in the air, all around us. As I consider his presentation against the backdrop of your questions (Is having information knowledge?; Do we retain information if we don’t have to work at getting it?)…I think his distinction of “meaning seekers” versus “meaning makers” is relevant. In my mind, our access to information speaks more of the traditional concept which was primarily one-directional, and our primary contribution was as seeker. A more participatory dynamic gives us the opportunity to not only make meaning of that information locally, but to contribute to the even broader conversations.

    One thing that is interesting to me though is that although our access to information requires so much less of our time and effort now…it seems this has generally not translated into greater margin that allows for more robust critical and creative engagements with that information. Bill Hybels, a prominent pastor-leader, speaks of “blue-sky days” as an opportunity to break-free from our typical trappings in an effort to make room for this type of response (https://books.google.com/books/about/Axiom.html?id=tBKWBcSmTUgC). As you are teaching your team how to fish, what do you do to create a culture where they have the greatest chance of success…noting that a blue-sky experience seems preferable to one in which they’re drowning in information?

    -EA

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    • EA,

      Good afternoon. I am sorry for my slow response. Thank you for sharing the Michael Wesch’s TEDx (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeaAHv4UTI8) video. There was one point that I recall that is something that I have been attempting to do to teach our employees to fish, Wesch commented on teaching knowledge able verse knowledgeable. I am making efforts to encourage others to not only collect information and knowledge but take the information and ask critical questions, and find ways to take what is learned and apply it appropriately. I think it is also important that we teach others to ignore much of the “extra” noise we are reading and seeing on things such as Facebook (depending on your network of friends). It is easy to allow the mass amount of information to get in the way of what is pertinent. I ask my teammates to continuously ask, “what is important.”

      Jason

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  2. You pose the question, “ Is having information knowledge?” Not according to Frank Zappa http://www.lyricsfreak.com/f/frank+zappa/packard+goose_20056740.html (or according to many sources, Albert Einstein). But those sources aside  I wonder does the ease with which we can access information make us assume that we now have knowledge? Meaning seeking (referenced by One Foot Raised) requires some deliberate reflection. And it seems our willingness or ability to spend time reflecting is seriously limited. And when we are networked and connected to others, it seems this reflective opportunity is even further reduced.

    Yet in much of what we read this week there seems to be an implicit assumption that solving problems or coming up with solutions through collaborating and connecting is inherently better than solving problems or coming up with solutions on your own. I am conflicted in the degree I want to agree with this assumption. Collaboration can be fantastic. It can also be stifling. Consider the article by Will Yacowicz http://www.inc.com/will-yakowicz/dangers-of-workplace-collaboration.html . He discusses research indicating that while time dedicated to collaboration has risen tremendously in recent years, actual output from such endeavors is not as productive as we might think; that possibly as few as 3-5% of the team members actually contribute actively to collaborative efforts. These few, who are exceptional can become overloaded and burn out thus slowing down the while mechanism. So going back to the earlier question regarding the relationship between having information and being knowledgeable – far too often in collaboration individuals armed with information overwhelm the individual who may actually be knowledgeable and the knowledge that might have lifted the solution to a higher plane is drowned out by the noise of pieces of data, burn out and fail to contribute. I think it’s time to step back and question exactly how to best manage connectivity and collaboration.
    Thanks – Tricia

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    • Tricia:
      I appreciated you analysis of having too much collaboration. I often describe this as decisions by committee–and sometimes actionable decisions will never come to fruition. My big takeaway from this week is that in today’s world, knowledge is no longer held by only certain, predetermined individuals, especially at the organizational level. I often find this is how people describe strategy, as in only certain “strategists” can develop a strategy. This is partially true. Even without formal training or experience, project managers create a road map for getting a project completed; public relations professionals develop strategic messaging for getting through to a reporter; and young media planners and buyers make decisions based on reaching target audiences (please note, these are all examples from the marketing field). Often these initiatives happen within one’s first few years out of college, but they are not given the title of strategist until later in their career.
      Could this be the role of the leader? Finding and capitalizing on followers talents? Perhaps it is time to dust off Strength Finders!
      -Krista

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  3. Good point, Tricia, though it is hard within the HBR article that Yacowicz cited to see if digital collaboration was included. The original three authors noted employee investments in informational, social, and personal aspects…and in many ways, the informational aligns with leveraging collective knowledge that Dixon noted. Still, worth consideration.

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    • True I am making some assumptions regarding digital collaboration having many overlaps with the collaboration the authors were citing. A fair amount of collaboration in my company is done with a mix of digital, face to face and virtual both synchronous and asynchronous – thus I may have overlaid my own biases on the research. Appreciate your feedback.

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      • Tricia,

        Thank you for your comments this week. I must admit, I read your comments several times over the last couple of days before I responded. Your comment about reflection is an important point to consider. Honestly, our course early in the program that constantly encouraged self-reflection might have been one of the best lessons I could have expected during this journey. I have intentionally mentioned the word reflection numerous times when speaking with my staff over the last several months. I have also encouraged team members to take a day or two before answering a question I have posed in determining the direction we will be taking with our team. I want our team to think about their experiences, listen to the points others are making, and do some research before responding. That being said, we do not always have the liberty of taking a couple of days before we make a decision.

        The contributions of Dr. Watwood, Krista, and you are important to consider. I do feel the collaboration of too many can slow the research and decision process immensely. At some point, someone has to make a decision. Having a relatively small team with diverse points of views is perfect. Sometimes we have the ability to choose who is involved, and sometimes we do not. I will always lean to the side of having a network of individuals that are diverse and collaborative, but in the end, I think the leader needs to consider the information they have and make a decision they think is best for their organization and those they serve. Thank you again for your comments. You have given me a lot to think about.

        Jason

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  4. “As I continue to grow in my professional role, I find myself less interested in personally solving a problem and more interested in leading others to work together to solve a problem.”

    I loved that comment, Jason. I think it is so vitally important for leaders to do exactly as you described. As Dixon (2009) described in her post on explicit knowledge, the leader as the owner of knowledge is no longer the way the world works. There is information to be shared from all corners of the world, and in whatever profession we pursue. As you said, bringing in the diverse perspectives can help us affirm or challenge our beliefs, whether the information being discussed is found internally or through the use of Web tools. Our world has broadened, and we must manage the knowledge within it… not just within our own four walls.

    Thanks,
    The Ayes Have It

    Dixon, N. (2009, May 2). Where knowledge management has been and where it is going – part one. Retrieved from http://www.nancydixonblog.com/2009/05/where-knowledge-management-has-been-and-where-it-is-going-part-one.html

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  5. Jason,
    Something you said it, and I have read in other blog posts this week, is concerning: “How do we assist those that we lead in managing what which information is true and what is inaccurate so that the knowledge being built is the right knowledge; knowledge that can benefit the collective good?”

    Maybe it is just me being pedantic, but given the political rhetoric of this past week I think it makes for a good discussion. You quoted Weinberger’s (2011) definition of knowledge who was in turn explaining the philosophically classical definition by Plato, namely that knowledge is justified true belief. While there are many arguments concerning this definition the one condition I have never seen left off is the “true” part. In that sense knowledge isn’t built to be either right or wrong because knowledge by Weinberger (2011) and many others must by definition be true. I agree with your point that we must assist in managing and leading to true information which can be extremely difficult. But once we start calling people’s misinformed beliefs “knowledge” it becomes that much more difficult to change minds and find the truth.

    Chris

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    • Chris,

      Thank you for your comments. One of my greatest concerns about today’s society is I feel that so many read something on Facebook or watch something on the news and immediately see what they are reading or watching as the only truth. I have strong opinions based on my experiences as much as anyone; however, I try as much as I can to put myself on the other side of the argument. This is something I have tried to do in meetings with colleagues as well. It forces us to think differently. I believe the biggest benefit is it shifts us from making emotional decisions. It may even lead us to seek additional information from those with thoughts that differ from our own. Many of my comments this week surrounded my fear that information is so easily available that we can slip into a habit of finding an answer quickly and thinking that information is the best information. My hope is that we give questions a reasonable thought process and utilize the different networks and opinions before drawing a conclusion on what is the right answer.

      Thank you again,

      Jason

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