Gurteen Knowledge-Letter: Issue 12 - 28th May 2001


First Published

May 2001

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This is the 12th Gurteen Knowledge-Letter. I have been writing this
newsletter for a year now and its circulation has grown from 200 to
over 2,500 today.

As a one-man independent KM consultant, it takes a fair amount of
time and discipline to produce an issue each month but as with all
"knowledge sharing" activities - I do it as much for myself as for
others. The process of collecting material each month and pulling it
together - helps me keep a look out for interesting material and
trends in the KM field; to focus my thoughts on the issues and to add
some structure and value. I find this a very useful exercise - I hope
you find it useful too.

If you have yet to look at my web site - click here:


and see what the Harvard Business School KM site "Working Knowledge"
has to say about it in a recent review.

*************************** CONTENTS ***************************

1 - Knowledge, People and Power
2 - HBS Working Knowledge Site
3 - Story: On Awareness
4 - KM Asia 2001
5 - Book: The Consolations of Philosophy
6 - Some Heretical Thoughts on KM
7 - Person: Theodore Zeldin
8 - KM Intranets
9 - Events

****************** KNOWLEDGE, PEOPLE AND POWER ******************

Two week's ago I attended Business Futures, International Futures
Forum 2001 - "Knowledge, People and Power" in Sweden. It was the
first in a series of forums that examine the trends and issues
shaping this shift in power to the individual and the development of
increased technical and emotional connectivity; the ways in which new
forms of knowledge, consciousness and individual potential might
develop; and the implications for markets, communities and

It was an excellent event and I learnt a great deal- its not often
that I get to take time out to think about the future and it was
complemented by a beautiful venue. It has prompted me to think about
capturing KM trends and publishing them on my KM web site - it seems
to me that we need to spend a lot more time thinking about the
future. As Peter Drucker once said "The best way to predict the
future is to create it."

There are two more events to be held in the series:

ˇ Harnessing minds - the challenge facing organizations to harness
the diversity that is both the individual and the organization -
Montreal September 2001

ˇ Creating sustainable communities - the role of communities in
reconciling the interests of the individual and the many - London
November 2001

For details of the forums:

For more about BusinessFutures:

****************** HBS WORKING KNOWLEDGE SITE ******************

This is a great little KM site - you will find a wealth of resources
that reflects the intellectual capital of the Harvard Business School
as well as the insights of industry leaders worldwide.

It also has a good selection of reviewed KM sites although I must
confess a little bias given my KM site is currently featured as site
of the month.

One fascinating outcome of this publicity for my site is that in one
evening 29 people signed up on my site for this newsletter. Every
single one of them was from South Korea. Does this reflect a growing
interest in KM in SE Asia or what? - I wish I knew.

HBS Working Knowledge:

HBS Working Knowledge Web Site Reviews:

********************** STORY: ON AWARENESS **********************

A little girl was being admonished by her mother for throwing sand in
a the face of a playmate. "Now you do over there and apologize," the
mother demanded.

"No, I won't," the little girl replied. "I'm not sorry I did it. I
don't like her."

The mother persisted louder. The daughter acquiesced . She sulked
over to her victim and said, cursorily, "I'm sorry," then ran back.

"No, that's not good enough." declared her mother. "You go back and
tell her you're sorry - as if you meant it."

I came across this little story in a book by Will Schutz called
Profound Simplicity. The author points out the attempt of the mother
to impose societies values on the little girl. "Lie" the little girl
is told. "Not only lie, but lie in a way that people don't know you
are lying."

What concerns me is that the mother thought she was doing "right" -
teaching her daughter good manners - absolutely unaware that the
underlying message was quite a different one. Her reaction was one
that is probably typical of most parents - I could see myself doing
the same sort of thing some years ago.

There is a generic lesson here. We all need to think hard about our
"instinctive" responses. Often our interventions - with all the best
of intentions - in our personal and business lives don't improve
matters but make things worse and we move on blindly "unaware" of the
damage we have done.

Profound Simplicity by Will Schulz:

Awareness by Anthony de Mello:

************************* KM ASIA 2001 *************************

I attended the "KM 2000" knowledge management conference and
exhibition in Brussels last year and plan to attend the next event -
"KM Europe 2001" in Den Hagg, Netherlands in November of this year.
The 2000 event was an excellent conference and exhibition with some
great speakers and over 2,500 visitors.

KM seems to be now taking off in Asia (especially if anything is to
be inferred by the many Korean visitors to my web site) and so in
July of this year, the Ark Group is running a Knowledge Management
Conference and Exhibition in Singapore - "KM Asia 2001" - speakers
include Professor Ikujiro Nonaka (University of California), Dr Larry
Prusak (IBM Institute) and Steve Denning (World Bank).

If you are based in the region or passing through - I'm sure it will
be well worth a visit - otherwise there is the European event in

KM Asia 2001:

KM Europe 2001:

************* BOOK: THE CONSOLATIONS OF PHILOSOPHY *************

A little while ago I decided to buy an audio tape to play in my car -
not a music tape but one that might teach me something. As I've
always had an interest in philosophy I settled on a tape by Alain de
Botton on the Consultations of Philosophy. I did not know at the time
that the tape was based on a BBC TV series and a book of the same

I loved the tape and am pleased I bought it. What I found fascinating
was that Alain de Botton focused on some of the things that bother us
all: lack of money, the pain of love, inadequacy, anxiety, the fear
of failure and the pressure to conform. So it was not your everyday
heavy going philosophical treatise - thank goodness!

de Botton takes six of the finest minds in the history of philosophy
to consider the problems of everyday life - Socrates, Epicurus,
Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche.

Its well worth a read or a 'listen' even if you feel you have no
interest whatsoever in philosophy. If you do buy the book or the tape
- follow the link to my web site as I have tried to provide links to
pages on each of the above philosophers so you (or should I say I)
can learn a little more about each of them.

The Consolations of Philosophy:


***************** SOME HERETICAL THOUGHTS ON KM *****************

I always like to question things. To ask "Why?" - nothing is too
sacred. As a scientist at heart I have seen so many theories over
turned even in my life time. So here are a few heretical thoughts on
KM. I hope they provoke some thought.

First, a quote on KM from Michael Schrage:

"I think "knowledge management" is a bullshit issue. Let me tell you
why. I can give you perfect information, I can give you perfect
knowledge and it won't change your behavior one iota. People choose
not to change their behavior because the culture and the imperatives
of the organization make it too difficult to act upon the knowledge.
Knowledge is not the power. Power is power. The ability to act on
knowledge is power. Most people in most organizations do not have the
ability to act on the knowledge they possess. End of story."

Or maybe put another way - as a business development manager from BT
in a recent KM presentation observed to me:

"Knowledge Management should be about liberating people to think -
not all this technology stuff".

Or a more cutting comment still from a business consultant I invited
to a recent KM conference:

"David - this KM business is really just a load of 'bollocks'. It
does not address the quality of the decision making! What is the
point of having all this KM stuff in place if people still make
'crap' decisions. If they don't use it or if they do the wrong thing
- even exceptionally well - they would do better to do the right
thing very very badly and not bother with KM at all!"

Is KM missing something?

Michael Schrage Quotation:

******************** PERSON: THEODORE ZELDIN ********************

I am increasingly fascinated by the work and ideas of Theodore Zeldin
- you may remember I recently did a short review of his book
"Conversations" in the January edition of this newsletter.

Here is a link to an article from History Today on this interesting
Oxford fellow. It seems Theodore Zeldin started out as a historian
and wrote books about nineteenth century France but today he prefers
to reflect on the nature and future of intimacy, happiness,
conversation and patterns of work. He says he is constantly thinking
about how things came to be the way they are and what lessons we can
draw from them and that the ultimate aim in life is to discover what
one should do with one's life. His own aim in life is to set humanity
on a more productive course.

Great stuff - I love it!

Article on Theodore Zeldin:

Theodore Zeldin:

************************* KM INTRANETS *************************

A question I am often asked by people is "What sort of material
should we be putting on our Corporate Intranet?" If I talk about
Knowledge Management in this context I am frequently told - "We
really want to get started quickly and don't have the time or the
mandate to think about KM - we can come back to that later."

Increasingly I think this approach is inappropriate. When thinking
about developing an Intranet - the starting point should not be "What
business value can we derive from an Intranet?" or "How can we
better meet our business objectives through an Intranet?" Both these
questions are "Intranet" centric and presuppose that an Intranet
alone is the answer. An Intranet is just a business tool - or more
specifically - it is an information and knowledge management tool -
but just one of many.

A more useful question to ask is "How can we better meet our business
objectives through the management and leveraging of our corporate
information and knowledge - our intellectual capital?" or "How can we
make information and knowledge within our organization more
productive in pursuit of our business objectives?" In this context
an Intranet is only a small part of the answer!

So when thinking about the business purpose behind your Intranet -
maybe you should start by thinking about your organizations'
objectives and how Knowledge Management could support them and in
turn how your Intranet could support your KM strategy. I think this
would be a much more productive approach than leaving KM to something
to be thought about in the future - only to find that your Intranet
is not really designed to support it.


Knowledge Management:

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
David Gurteen

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