THE WELCH COMPANY
440 Davis Court #1602
San Francisco, CA 94111-2496
415 781 5700
March 17, 2000
04 00067 61 00031702
Mr. Henry van Eykan
6505 Kaiser Drive
Fremont, CA 94555
Seniors for New Work Role of Knowledge Management
Your analysis on March 15, 2000, in discussion with Jon Winters and Neal Scott
to advance Doug's revolution, was incisive and
compelling. Jon makes a strong argument that the energy and strength of youth
are vital, and seems to conclude that multi-generational support is needed for
Another angle reviewed on March 7, 2000 for
seniors to support the DKR is that
they have the time to invest in learning a new work role that is hard to learn,
yet has a big potential pay-off for them personally, and for the larger
community, if the capability should prove successful.
On March 7, 2000
Doug pointed the team
to Bellinger's work defining "knowledge"
and "learning." Bellinger explains that knowledge entails
capturing the record,
for example what was read in a book, memo, or written in a letter, or discussed
over lunch, on the phone, or at the board meeting, or flying back from Japan
after winning a big order, and connecting it up into patterns of cause and
effect. Bellinger says that is what knowledge means, and we need people,
tools and processes
to help us manage it, because it is a big tangled mess, only we
don't know it, because the
human mind is wired to summarize everything
so that a human body can take clear, sequential actions, like, for example,
take a bite food, look at a picture, tell Fred to update
the cost report, etc. Recall that Bellinger cites the
to support his theories about knowledge management. This company
provides content for knowledge management and says it is hard work.
.. So, it is not an easy job to lift civilization to the next plateau.
It is hard work!
That's the work you and Doug, and others have been doing the past 50 years to,
you say in your letter
on March 15, create fertile soil so that
young people have a better chance to grow, and realize their dreams.
Turning back to Andy, he says it takes diligence to remove the ambiguity of
mental maps by
writing copious notes
to capture the record, which Bellinger
says is necessary for knowledge management. This means we can't rely on the
DKR to figure it all out. It's not going to happen that way. There is nobody
who can create a program, and then throw the switch, so we can all stand back
to watch knowledge being managed. We can't go to Santa Cruz or Hawaii, and
take it easy while the DKR does the work. Once we have a tool, then we can
leverage our intellectual capabilities, or as Doug
says, augment our abilities. This will make our work more valuable, but will
not eliminate the need for hard work to solve big problems, like energy,
poverty, et al, and little problems, like getting the car fixed, or conducting
a productive meeting.
The first step will be developing the skills and work practices
to apply the new tools.
How, really, can it be otherwise? Why should we expect that augmented tools
can be deployed without augmented skills? When the alphabet came along, we
needed new skills. When accounting came along, we needed new skills. When a
backhoe came along, it saved a lot of time, but we needed new skills. Our
former skills that felt so comfortable moving dirt one shovelful at a time,
didn't work with the DKR for digging. We had to bite the bullet to move to a
higher plateau of capability by learning how to move new levers in unfamiliar
says CEOs, managers and engineers don't like to do that. They
loathe changing their work practice. We have the model for the backhoe: that
using technology in a certain way turned out to pay off, once someone learned
to press the buttons. The DKR can be thought of as a
big new backhoe for
that is piling up all around us, into a structure that provides
"knowledge." Converting inert information into useful knowledge
requires learning new skills, even though we
are comfortable with the email program, Word, Powerpoint, clicking on the
Internet, talking on the cell phone, and going to the meeting. We still get to
do all that stuff, it doesn't go away; but, now there is another kind of task
that is needed to make the rest of it productive. That is the central
knowledge management dilemma of the 21st century. We can reduce cost by adding
another cost element of a knowledge manager or knowledge worker, or super
Nobody believes this, and nobody is willing to invest the time to pilot test,
again, what has been learned many times before in history, often only after
horrific loss and pain, the...
The long way around is the short way there
.. Senior people have the experience, the time needed to learn a new work role for
using specialized tools to capture a useful record for managing knowledge
productively. Younger people are all busy. It turns out, that Andy (we're
using Andy here generically, as an icon) won't let them invest time to write
copious notes. He only let's himself do that. All the guys are in the
meeting, sending an email, they have kids, functions to attend, honors to rake
in for higher profits from using what they already know, better and better.
They do not have time to experiment with disruptive technology that takes a few
months to learn, and several more months before benefits begin to role in,
showing that human capabilities are augmented.
Moreover, they are embarrased
to ask the boss for help with managing knowledge. They are afraid of sounding
incompetent because they don't know how to explain knowledge, what needs
to be done to manage it, and how that will improve earnings. The boss is
swamped too. But, he is a can-do guy, and so dismisses the request by asking
"Why do you need help, are you incompetent?" Just the prospect that someone
might ask why knowledge management is useful, prevents most folks on the job
from even considering asking for a budget to improve it. It's a dilemma with a
.. Retired people don't have that dilemma. They are like Andy. They are in
charge. They don't need permission for
using knowledge management to improve their lives.
Senior people have time, experience, essential for knowledge
work, and they have a huge self-interest dynamic, that is largely not
present in the minds
of younger people (20 - 50)
still on the job.
Seniors by definition have an increasing need to manage personal health
projects. In the next 20 years, this will be a huge population that exposes
further the weakness of conventional management practice, which is otherwise
hidden in good economic times by the ability to buy off mistakes. No amount of
money, nor can the slickest business model, cover up failed management in the
operating room, as it does in the board room. Already we hear about the
high cost of medical mistakes; that 300%
more people die from mistakes in the hospital
than from accidents in automobiles and airplanes combined. This will bring
self-interest pressure for better management. When it becomes clear that the
nature of management cannot be improved by conventional means of yelling at
people and firing them, or sending them to the seminar to hear about the 20 80
method, or getting a faster cell phone, or computer with more nodes in the
email program, or rearranging the org chart, or getting people with good
communication skills to talk other people into saying yes, when all that fails,
people will ask how can we become better partners to improve our health.
Instead of getting mad, how can we help.
see, the doctor has a lot of patients, so his attention is divided. He sees
one patient after another. By the end of the day, he cannot remember
even the 5% - 10% Henry cited on March 7 for people reading a book.
But, I can spend all my time
on my situation, certainly a lot more than the doctor can.
That arithmetic says even though I want the
doctor to figure it all out, I can help a lot by doing some of the hard work to
perform mission critical knowledge management
cited by Bellinger, referenced by Doug, so that the doctor is
organized and prepared to do the work, when he starts working on me!
.. Accordingly, medical practice for seniors provides a crucible to test out the
role of knowledge manager, because you have a bunch of smart, experienced
people who have from 10 - 30 years of time on their hands for helping
themselves, and in the bargain formulating good work practices to make the DKR
useful. Out of millions of people in this situation, we should be able to
find say 5 - 10 who will help us in order to help themselves, even though it
is hard work and nobody on the planet wants to do it.
This may align with
objective for the Archimedes Project at Stanford
to support the DKR, reported on March 15, 2000.