440 Davis Court #1602
San Francisco, CA 94111-2496
415 781 5700

November 21, 2000

04 00067 61 00112102

OHS DKR Project
SRI International
333 Ravenswood Avenue
Menlo Park, CA 94025

Subject:   Alliance and Partners

Dear Paul,

Thanks for the support in your letter on November 16, especially the leads on folks who may want to do KM.

Theoretically, people who want to do KM are those who feel the pressure of information overload, who attend a lot of meetings, get a lot of email, are busy with the cell phone, travel, and do conference calls to explain why earnings and the stock price are dropping, reported on September 22, and more recently on November 6, 2000.

Another bunch of folks that might like to augment intelligence are seniors spending more time at the doctor's office, and worrying about whether to take 3 red pills and 2 blue ones once per day, or 1 blue and 2 red, 3 times a day. Another group would be sureties who worry about losses caused by the high cost of medical mistakes, or engineering mistakes, e.g., NASA, Intel, Firestone, and so on and on, and on, as set out in the New World Order.

Others have noticed information overload. CBS did a 60 minutes segment, Peter Drucker, Doug Engelbart, Andy Grove, Henry Kissinger, indeed everyone on the planet feels this pressure.

Few, however, have made the connection between information overload, that causes endless mistakes due to meaning drift, and the bottom line. Most top executives feel that earnings are improved by more down sizing, meetings, cell phones, email and by hiring smarter people. No one knows we can augment intelligence to make the people on the job smarter, so they can turn information into useful knowledge. It's a dilemma.

Some on this team are beginning to get the idea that maybe there is a way to do this, but achieving that insight has taken 10 months, and even in that case, nobody is stepping up to say...

"Hey, I wanna turn information into knowledge tooooo. " "I wannna save time and increase earnings. I don't wannna fire people -- how do we add intelligence to management?"

Nobody is saying that.

There remains a healthy skepticism expressed by Henry van Eyken on September 26, 2000, which only experience can overcome. Other people have to jump in the deep water of KM through pilot testing, as proposed to SRI on October 11, 2000, in order to build a base of confidence that investing intellectual capital pays off, the same way that investing seeds in the ground pays off for the farmer.

The letter to the team on November 2, 2000 explained the challenge of aligning enabling forces is a predicate to accomplishing Doug's goal, and the team's objective to use technology for lifting basic competency. We have to grow a culture of knowledge that enables people to transition from IT to KM. Doug wants to start with software engineers. There is not a lot of evidence that software engineers are breaking down the door to do KM; and, many of our most talented engineers have firm ideas about how to do knowledge work. They don't want help, and they don't see any reason to change the way they are working, since they are well paid. They reasonably conclude that, since they are well paid, they must know how to do knowledge work, and so they aim to spread their good ideas to others, rather than accept help. That is a pretty tough market. Like medical practice, software engineers are well paid smart people, who are innoculated by a culture of denial that resists being helped.

On the other hand, there is evidence that IT has the worst record of management, and so sunshine earnings from favorable market conditions may not be a sound basis for ignoring help. But, whether it is sound or not, a big income and seemingly endless demand for software engineers foments a culture of invinciability that resists changing work practice, which is the essence of KM.

As you note in your letter, of the 300K+ hits you got on the Internet for KM, none are doing KM. They are all working on a project to create it. My sense is the design is a secret that can only be discovered by doing KM. If people want to build KM tools, you have to set aside the tool kit for awhile and become immersed in the process of doing KM, then pick up the tools again and go to work. Right now we have a bunch of expert tool makers, who don't really understand the tool that is needed. But this is hard to admit, because it seems to strike at the core of professional competence. As a result, the same culture of denial that prevents software engineers from improving their work practice, also, prevents recognition that they need help to learn how to build better knowledge tools. Andy Grove, CEO of Intel, said it best: executives are unwilling to admit even to themselves the magnitude of the problems they face. It's a dilemma that can only be overcome by building a culture of knowledge through education and experience discussed with Henry van Eykan on November 5, 2000, and recommended to SRI as an urgent research project on October 11.

Anyway, thanks again for the good thoughts.

Happy Thanksgiving to all...



Rod Welch