The shift away from mechanical, informational process thinking towards biological and living systems for knowledge creation, usage and leadership is well underway.
However, certain vestiges exists in the moribund knowledge management (KM) community. Many of the grave defects in KM are perpetuated in online discussion groups. Many KM amateurs, longing for rigid 20th Century-style information management, continue to reject the living and complex notions of knowledge. Fortunately the shift to the Knowledge Era is far too potent and inexorable to be held back by KM nostalgia.
For example, faced with the irrefutable logic of complex knowledge creation, KM apologists cite cancer to counter biological KM. Thing is, cancer is hyper-efficient. It is unregulated growth. Cancer cells think they are doing just fine.
Rather, cancer is harmful to knowledge creation but not in the way described by the stagnant KM Establishment. Malignant bureaucracy is the real cancer that kills knowledge creation.
There are malignant cancers in most organizations. They are often called hierarchy, managerialism, culture, command, control, policies and procedures. In KM the cancer is called ‘Standards.’ These are the true cancers that kill most organizations and KM.
Quite on the contrary, continuous knowledge creation, KM and breakthrough innovation can learn a lot from the remarkable biology of cancer.
Some key biological properties of cancer are critical to modern knowledge creation, diffusion and KM. Cancer phenomena such as sustaining proliferative signaling, evading growth suppressors, resisting death, enabling replicative immortality and metastasis are positively essential to idea creation, knowledge entrepreneurism and widespread adoption!
Furthermore, KM Standards, by definition, defeat the primary autocatalytic nature of knowledge.
[Colabria dislikes the term viral to describe diffusion such as viral video or viral marketing. Likewise, cancerous is also inappropriate to describe prosperous diffusion of innovation. –Ed.]
Another defective metaphor offered by KM dilettantes is the dim, yet pervasive notion of ‘knowledge harvest.’
In this case, they suggested that winemakers, ‘prune, graft and weed’ their vines to produce ‘fine wine.’
The notion of harvest or collection is among the top failures of legacy KM. Often they are called the ruinous ‘best practices.’ Beware. They are no good for KM. Authentic KM is about connection not collection.
Agricultural workers ‘prune, graft and weed’ vines to produce fruit. It’s basic housekeeping. It helps, but it hardly produces great wine. Workers, farmers and pickers are important to grape production. Climate, terroir harvest are other major, complex and far more important factors, not to mention the winemaking itself, are the essential dimensions of producing good wine.
The outcome of good fruit is not great wine. Great fruit in the wrong hands can produce plonk. The actual winemaker must use biological principles of emergence, adaptation, stochastics, living systems, hybridization, conceptual blending and so forth to produce passable wine from a mass of fruit.
Meanwhile, vintages exists precisely because wine-making is a complex adaptive system. Outcomes are different year-over-year. Wine-making is a living system. On the contrary, wine-making is an excellent example of biological and Authentic KM!
Of course some factory vintners strive for the identical, mass-production gut-wash year over year. Pass. Newsflash: KM is NOT about producing predictable results year over year…
Finally, the sommelier plays a key role. Their knowledge and mastery reveals prospective outcomes for the consumer. Remember, ‘fine wine’ is determined by the wine drinker, the customer – and no one else.
In summary, biological KM and the craft of authentic knowledge creation addresses problems that are categorically unsolvable using traditions of linear process engineering. Mindfulness, complexity and phronesis are the foundations of biological KM. The Biology of KM achieves productivity growth, disruptive innovation, and, well, great wine. Cheers!