Do you know what you know?

Is a little known bit of information significant? Could it be a clue that solves the big picture?

And how do we know what we know? Can we share knowledge if we can’t recognize it… if we think it’s just too insignificant?

Once again, I looked to the “big picture” of the School of Athens for small inspiration. I started this inquiry by wondering why Raphael painted himself into the painting, and why he’s looking out at the viewer. (You can find him on the far right of the painting second from the column.) Answers to this and many more little known facts about the painting are available at The Hellenic World . Once I read through them, I became aware of the significance this painting has in retelling the larger story of both classical wisdom and science, as well is its renaissance by Italian artists. The painting unlocks mystery about Pythagoras’ math and Plato’s idealism.

 What does this have to do with KM? As I learned more about the School of Athens, I understood the bigger picture in that picture… the value of the painting beyond aesthetics.

So it is with communication in an organization. Once the little known facts are found and tacit knowledge is identified as valuable, this new-found awareness becomes a conduit to knowledge sharing. Could something that looks as simple as a lunch conversation between two insurance processors now become significant knowledge sharing? Indeed yes when one becomes aware that exchanging hints about doing their job results in a time-savings of 10%. The simple “picture” of everyday communication becomes significant knowledge sharing.

Knowledge managers are charged with becoming the art critics of their organization: creating awareness and identifying the little things that constitute the big picture.



  1. Great insight.
    There’s a reason we call particular conversations within a larger discussion a “thread.”
    An organization’s total communication is like a pattern on the tapestry of their particular business. Individual conversations within the organization are the “threads” that establish the pattern which, in turn, creates the tapestry. One (or even several) threads examined in isolation may seem insignificant. But pull enough of them away from the pattern and soon the tapestry loses cohesion.
    Thus, your great insight. Knowledge managers are indeed responsible for recognizing and supporting the “little things that constitute the big picture.”


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