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'Knowledge Management', ... Sharing or Spectating?

Ted Lumley - 15th October 1998

Emile, deep in reflection, rose up from the swivel chair in front of his computer and reflexively walked into the kitchen, drawing himself a glass of 'vin rouge sec' from the box of Foret Noire at the end of the counter.

It had been a rich day for emails, not only in terms of quantity but also in terms of those mysterious 'synchronicities' which grow out of the relational spaces between things. Emile juggled three of the fresh messages in his mind, one from Henri expressing impatience with Emile's 'Bar des Pins' essay, suggesting it was symptomatic of the coming on of Emile's second teenagehood, ... another from David giving a journalistic update on the KM 'movement' and the third, from Jan, which shared activist impressions of KM from the 'underground'.

A year ago, Emile might have classified his incoming emails as 'good news, bad news', but today, he was far more cognizant than he had ever been that, 'in conflict lies opportunity' and thus there was always a basic yin/yang ambiguity which could make nonsense out of such binary classifications as 'good' and 'bad'.

And there was certainly no shortage of conflict in Henri's statement as Henri was never one to mince his words, --- "Let me know when you have a well defined goal or purpose or even a logical frame of theory wherein your writings fit.". Nor was conflict in short supply between David's detached anthology of KM writings which portrayed the KM mainstream as looking at KM as a 'ding an sich', an opportunity-rich growth industry while Jan's participative 'call to arms' profiled KM as a life or death necessity.

Emile noted that the tone of David's ... "analytical briefing on developments and key issues in the networked knowledge economy" seemed to be set by the calm and measured words of academic reports such as the World Bank's 'Knowledge for Development', --- "Because knowledge matters, understanding how people and societies acquire and use knowledge - and why they sometimes fail to do so - is essential to improving people's lives, especially the lives of the poorest among us".

And he was reminded of how the recurrent, brain-jarring emergency sirens in his McGill 'ghetto' location contrasted with the otherwise peaceful scene, as he mentally 'replayed' Jan's five alarm presentation, which called into question the very viability of homo sapiens, and asserted that improved KM was essential, to raise people's awareness and inform them 'ecologically', lowering the likelihood that their actions would continue to destroy the very environment which sustained them, and returning them to a natural economic-ecologic balance essential not only to their survival, but to the survival of countless brother-species which were equally entitled to a life on this planet.

Three cybercoins in the fountain, .... when would the penny drop?

From experience, Emile intuitively knew that the penny 'would' indeed drop, ... and would drop very soon. What Henri wasn't considering was that a "well defined goal or purpose or even a logical frame of theory" was an exemplar of a particular mode of perception and inquiry, and a mode not nearly as powerful, in the presence of complex change, as the 'bootstrapping' approach which Emile had been depending upon for the past several years. The 'bar des pins' essay which raised Henri's hackles was in no way centred on Emile's second teenagehood, it was centred on the adage 'in vino veritas' and the fact that when the mind dropped out of 'well defined goal and logical frame' mode, it autonomously went into the 'intuitive' bootstrapping mode, the searching for ordering principles by 'bringing into connection in the mind a multitude of real or imaginary experiences'; i.e. the selfsame method by which Einstein had come up with his theory of relativity and Kepler, his three harmonic laws of celestial motion.

Emile juggled his frequently-referenced paperback copy of Kepler's "Epitome of Copernican Astronomy & Harmonies of the World" in his left hand as he smoked a Craven A longue, wondering how many 'scientists' had read and understood Kepler's works. Kepler had 'nailed' this difference between 'logical frameworks' and 'bootstrapping', at the celestial system level, way back in 1618, three centuries before the identical dualist geometry had emerged in the field of particle physics and had been captured in Heisenberg's 'observer effect' or 'uncertainty principle'.

It was dead simple AFTER you got it, ... Kepler pointed out that an observer on the earth, looking 'out there' in a detached voyeur fashion towards the center of a harmonically connected, resonant (solar) system; ... in this case towards venus, mercury and the sun, would blow the whole perceptive process if they thought no further than putting these observations into a 'logical structural framework'. This was because they, the observer, now a stand-in for the earth itself, were harmonically 'connected' with, and were influencing, what they were looking out at (not to mention the influences on 'themselves', mercury and venus, emanating from mars and jupiter whose 'spheres of revolution' 'contained' the earth's 'sphere'). This bigger picture, the 'shared space' 'container-oriented' picture in which 'space was a participant in physical phenomena', as EInstein had said, was an inclusionary view which did not filter out and discard the effects of observer-on observed or the influence of other beyond-the-field-of-observation components of the observed system (e.g. mars and jupiter), as did the 'logical framework' mode of perception. The perceptive dualism which was a natural emanation of solar system space-time dynamics was what Kepler termed, the archetypical model of 'harmony and geometry' (aka 'co-resonance and quantitative structure') which applied not only to celestial dynamics but equally to 'human intellection'.

To Emile, it seemed as if the frequenters of 'bar des pins' had dissolved their 'logical frameworks' in their first few litres of labatt's 50, or overstrength Bud, moving into the 'otherworld' of bootstrapping, where their minds were unleashed to free-range, scouting for 'ordering principles' which brought into connection a multitude of experiences, re-vivified in the evolving stream of bar-talk.

Emile smiled in the realization that the bar was probably the real temple of 'knowledge management' in the west, as Gistri and a few colleagues had always maintained, and as he himself had believed, even prior to reading Kepler's definitive thought experiments in 'Harmonia Mundi'.

Still, there were many, like Henri, who were not yet comfortable with subordinating logical frameworks to 'bootstrapped' ordering principles, and Emile knew he was going to have to develop some better skills and approaches if he was to successfully communicate the perceptual differences between 'voyeur space' and 'shared space'.

He downed the last drop of wine, stubbed out his cigarette and went back over to the computer to re-read the two messages from David and Jan, each 33 Kilobytes long with Jan's following David's by 3 hours, to the minute.

By now, the fog had lifted, and the penny had dropped and Emile's mind drifted back to his presentation at the London Oil & Gas KM Conference in early '97, where he had tried to get across the point that the observer-company, the observed-customer and the containing industry-economy were all participants in a rampant process of 'metamorphosis'. Emile knew that, in terms of 'knowledge management', this resurrected the old buddhist paradox of 'which one moves?, flag, wind or mind', the answer being that 'all move at the same time' and 'when you open your mouth to speak about it, you are wrong'.

Emile remembered feeling, ironically, like a 'man from mars' as he stood there at the podium with his opening slide of Kepler, Newton and the earth-moon system, waiting for the crowd to quiet down after the coffee break, and wishing he was, instead, engaging an audience of buddhist monks or aboriginal instead of business managers and planners who carried their logical structures around with them with unquestioned faith, much as a priest wears a cross or crucifix on a chain around his neck.

How could he get it across to someone, he mused, who was hyperanxious to capture KM recipes and cook up quickie solutions, that there could be no recipe? How could you tell them that there were no logical frameworks, based on 'detached' observations, which were capable of inquiry into observer-including metamorphosis?

At the end of the hour, about ten percent of the audience seemed to 'get it' and many of those that did seemed excited about it, Emile silently wished them luck when they tried to share this stuff with their bosses back at the office complex, ... since he had bailed out after 32 years of bashing his head against the brick wall of linear management practice, without making any significant dents in it (i.e. the management practice).

From his current perspective, sitting in his Montreal flat with the fresh news that his requested meeting with a Mohawk elder was being negotiated by an 'inside' Mohawk contact, Emile felt very content with his decision to drop out of active involvement in the corporate-culture oriented branch of the KM movement. As he had suspected it would, this 'mainstream' of KM had opted for 'voyeur space' views, ... 'logical frameworks' and 'recipes' which were blinding the KM practice to the horrendous 'metamorphosis' which was underway, which Jan's 'shared space' view was exposing him to, ... a view which showed us ALL being pulled into a vortical metamorphosis in which our 'logical framework-driven' economy-of-the-inessential, was beginning to morph into an 'experience-pulled' survival economy.

David's portrait of industry KM activity was right on target, ... a picture of Nero fiddling while Rome burned, and Jan's participative, 'worms eye' view of KM was equally 'on the money', .... of an oncoming tsunami of economic metamorphosis.

A close-out scene formed in Emile's mind in which Kepler and Heisenberg looked down on the KM crowd from the Goodyear Blimp, with Kepler shouting encouragements to, ... "Look from the Tower of Jupiter, as Jan is doing", and Heisenberg moving nervously around the rim of the cockpit, brooding over them like a mother hen, saying; ... "Don't forget the relational interference terms which are only present in the wave view, the ones that Jan is 'tuning' into".

High overhead, in an ultralight, Heraclitus makes a cameo appearance, his right hand stroking his white beard, as he shakes his head and says', ... "I knew Pythagorus and Parmenides were going to screw it up, .... the learning of many things is NOT what KM is all about".

© Copyright. Ted Lumley 1998. All Rights Reserved.
Email: emlumley@onramp.net

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