Corporate Epistemology and 'The New KM' LO29700

From: Chris Macrae (
Date: 12/16/02

Replying to LO29691 --

I agree with your conclusions and particularly like slides 50 to 59 but do
wonder if it could be simpler- if we work back for what we actually want
to achieve for knowledge workers, do we need to get management to buy into
your whole frame ( suspect the frame supports a lot of wonderful
engineering of human connectivity but does everyone need to see it for it
to be used? is its language common enough?)

My starting place is Drucker (surprised he didnt get a mention)

When people were used as clones between dumb machines, they were not
knowledge workers- they were not expected to use personal strengths; the
line required they act like a machine to fill in the bits between the
machine; if they started using individuality the dumb machines might mass
produce a million defective products

As soon as the machines are smart or we are directly serving people not
standing in machine lines, our value becomes in what are individual
strengths are and how they fit in the organsiational patterns; and for me
the pattern itself is defined by what stakeholders demand from the
organization as well as what unique (building to last) vision the
organisation has (what would its stakeholder world uniquely miss if it did
not exist, and what is it uniquely progressing for the future)

In a networked world, it is also unclear where the boundaries of knowledge
are; ie companies should be open with partners as its networks of
companies and individuals that serve the world no single organisation

I think part of the trap then is to define knowledge as if it is owned by
an organization. It flows. This also implies interesting things which
Drucker has for long pointed out. You shouldn't try to manage a knowledge
workers' network because he or she is best placed to know the
responsibilities of knowledge to deliver, share and learn next; you should
try to support knowledge with a clear and open system where the situated
knowledge worker can see who is being served (directly and across the
organization or network of organisations)

Now maybe I haven't chosen perfect words in the quick write-up- but what I
would like to ask your views on is : why is the following idea complex???
Knowledge flows in human connectivity (all be it amplifiable by technology
and supportable by system structure) complex) and that for the
connectivity to have value they should have system patterns
(organisations) where everyone gains from being served by (being connected
to) the system

My guess (though I would love to hear your guess) is that there are two
inter-related reasons why this is complex - apart from the above flow
paradigm not being as intimately agreed as a common language of living
systems should be

 1) we don't measure this so; in fact what we meaure degrades living
systems at compound rates
 2) 'management" needs to change its role model from command and control
to facilitating every persons co-responsibility as knwledge co-workers

Here we are simply back on Drucker ground. As I read him, he has been
advising 1,2 for decades as soon as he saw most prodcutivity was no longer
being derived by making people slaves to machines. Anyone agree or
disagree? Its important in the sense that if this simply boils down to 1),
2), we should all go demand it. In particular we should not expect that
the vested interest in the old accounting measurement monopoly are going
to help design the new open governance system that knowledge workers need
to be measured by; we need to map and open source this as one
metadisciplinary effort; the maths though detailed is very simple; but it
does not revolve round the separation operands that accountants rule with
to count value transacted with lifeless products and through costing
de-knowledgised people in the machine age

chris macrae

> Last week I gave a keynote presentation at a conference on Complexity
> Theory in Management that I thought some of you might be interested in.
> The full set of slides I used in my presentation is retrievable from the
> link below. In my talk, I addressed an issue that has come up recently in
> this group -- problems I see with the view of knowledge as 'the capacity
> for effective action,' or 'justified true belief' -- and an opposing point
> of view based largely on Karl Popper's 'fallibilism.' Depending on what
> your epistemology is, the manner in which business is conducted and the
> approaches taken in OL and Knowledge Management can vary dramatically.
> In another recent LO thread entitled "George Soros," I called attention to
> a developing strain of KM that is based on Popper's fallibilism, and which
> is labeled "The New KM." This presentation explains the underlying point
> of view and illustrates the differences it makes in the practice of
> business and KM. It also explains 'The Open Enterprise' as an
> organizational model that follows from fallibilism and which also
> addresses current issues related to corporate malfeasance. This is the
> first and only approach to KM that is based on fallibilism, and in that
> regard it differs from all other approaches to KM developed and/or in use
> up to now.
> Here is the presentation I gave:


"Chris Macrae" <>

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