KM = (K)eep (M)oving. Are KMers Imagineers?

I can’t help but see a strong correlation between Walt Disney’s “keep moving” culture and good KM:

“There’s really no secret about our approach. We keep moving forward—opening up new doors and doing new things—because we’re curious. And curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. We’re always exploring and experimenting. At WED, we call it Imagineering—the blending of creative imagination with technical know-how.”   

…from a 1965 presentation by Walt Disney called “Total Image”.

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.

Imitation or Theft? Is OSS the epitome of knowledge sharing?

I’m bringing to the home page my recent addition to The Art of Knowledge Management page, as it truly is a debate of merit for this blog.

Picasso and Open Source Software

I was elated today to read on our Fall 2007 LIS/KM 5043 Design and Implementation of Web-Based Information Services class (led by Dr. Betsy Van der Veer Martens ) discussion board, that a fellow colleague introduced another great artist into a timely information/knowledge management debate.

One of Picasso’s quotes was mentioned in terms of open source software (OSS) and comments made by Steve Job in a fascinating documentary called “Triumph of the Nerds.” Commenting about the development of the PC and software in the mid-70s, he noted that it was borne out of the 60’s communal vibe that everyone contributes for the greater good, and so, according to my colleague, the fact that Silicon Valley is located where it is seems like no accident. As the 80s came around, Jobs noted a change in the industry when he quoted Picasso who said:

“Good artists imitate…great artists steal.”

So, true to the nature of this blog, I did a little investigating in order to dig up some good parallels between Pablo and KM. And in the same way OSS designers take from one another, improve on an idea, then “create” a better product, so Picasso and his contemporaries were masters at taking inspiration from one another, personalizing it, then advancing the abstract art movement to a new level. Art Knowlegde News does an excellent job explaining Picasso’s blue period and the evolution of abstract art.

If you are so inclined, please enjoy one of my classmate’s (Steven Shelton) passionate and eloquent comments on OSS:

We should be free to participate in the system we choose: the closed, proprietary system or the more communal open source system. My point is that when innovations are shared in a community, innovation grows exponentially (the OSS model). The early growth of the Internet is an example of this kind of information sharing.

I’ve worked in the graphic arts field and had my ideas stolen, and I didn’t like that. But, I did (and do) enjoy sharing tricks and tips with my peers (my fellow artisans, for lack of better term). If I find a better way to secure a Windows computer for public use, it seems irrelevant how much time I spent developing it. It is much more useful if I share it openly with others (who are very likely to improve on it and share that information with myself and others). I find this kind of sharing quite prevalent among librarians. Thank goodness, there are so many experts on the Internet who freely share their hard won wisdom and expertise to teach us things like CSS, HTML, podcasting, etc. They certainly could choose to sell it in book from or charge for that same information which would be fine and acceptable, but have less dissemination.

Those programmers who make up the OSS movement choose to share their code, their labour (though many are paid for this work) with the understanding that a thousand eyes are better at finding bugs than just one set.

I really suggest that if anyone wants to understand the premise of OSS, they should read The Cathedral and the Bazaar, which Doc Martens has mentioned in the Open Source discussion board. (which I’ve pasted below)

Most of you who are interested in this probably have already read Eric Raymond’s classic essay in “First Monday”
so here’s his own page with more (including some links to extensions and critiques):

Today’s question: Is OSS the epitome of knowledge sharing? SHARE your thoughts!

From one school of thought to another…

Imagine Plato and Aristotle on the steps of the Athens Knowledge Café. They invite Socrates and Euclid to join them inside for a mocha chino and a little bit of knowledge sharing. From the School of Athens to the School of Knowledge Management… just how has the knowledge of ancient philosophers and scientists come to rest in our hands? Through communication!

This, then, is the goal of this blog: to define and discuss how we can best utilize “communication” to share our thoughts, ideas, methods, emotions, and information from one to another.

The fresco painting above is indeed entitled “School of Athens” and can be found among the Raphael rooms at the Vatican Museum in Rome. (Starbucks coffee is not allowed in the galleries.) I had the chance to revisit this masterpiece while I was on holiday following the ICKM 2007 in Vienna.
While studying it I was reminded that the image offers a great metaphor for an important part of knowledge management (KM), namely knowledge sharing or more simply put–effective communication.

To learn about the amazing correlation between Raphael’s “School of Athens” and KM, visit artcyclopedia.