New Knowledge Base
By Steve Telleen
comes out of her office building after work on a dark winter evening.
sees one of her colleagues under a streetlight, searching for
She asks if she can help. He explains that he has lost his car keys and
appreciate another set of eyes.
time of searching, the woman tries another strategy. She asks where he
saw his keys, so they can trace the path back to that point. He
"Oh, I know where I lost them," and points to a dark spot across the
lot under a tree.
woman asks, "If you lost the keys over there, why are you looking
them over here?"
he replies, "Because the light's better here."
as this old story sounds, this is the way we approach many of our
When justifying intranets, we attempt to use ROI measures that are well
(under the streetlight), because the real value may not be conventional
easily measured. The same is true of how we pay for and reward
and companies for "new" value.
advent of Internet technology, we are seeing cracks in our traditional
systems and what constitutes wealth. It is not information per se that
the newly valued commodity--it's vision and ideas. With the
of cheap and plentiful information, the process of learning and
is replacing the process of manufacturing.
our value systems change to reward the creation, distribution, and use
valuable ideas? What if ideas were paid for according to how widely
were used, rather than how narrowly they were monopolized?
speculate on a value system that ascribes a base value to an idea,
as a patentable process or product. But the "patent" holder would not
control over who could use the idea in product creation and
The patent holder would be guaranteed the unit price for each unit
from everyone who used the idea. Thus, the way to greatest wealth would
to create ideas that are widely shared and used by many manufacturers,
rather than monopolized by one.
environment, the same message holds true. How do we reward people for
knowledge and ideas? How do we reward them for learning? It is not only
management structures that have to change. Our value and reward
also need to be examined. We must look for ways to reward people, both
financially and in terms of influence, for creating and furthering
general knowledge. Moving from means of production to means of knowing
as a base value requires rewarding people for meaning, synthesis, and
discovery along with their ability
to continually restructure future possibilities.
it Mean to People?
many managers manage "the process." They set goals, devise a detailed
plan of action, and then motivate and monitor their employees' actions
according to the plan. At the
dawn of the Information Age, some managers already are beginning to
that successful management always has been accomplished by managing
and facilitating the flow of information. As the trend continues, we
expect knowledge management to become the business of managers.
effect, are a kind of action agent. They take in sensory information
send out action-stimulating information. As managers discover the
"sensory" power of intranets, they will encourage all work to be done
managers, and companies, will evolve patterns of work that embed the
process of doing business into an intranet communication
The traditional role of managers as sensory agents storing and
information between upper management and workers will be subsumed by
intranet itself. The manager role will begin to focus more on the agent
of analyst/critic and cross-pollinator.
move out of the sensory-agent role, knowledge workers' roles will need
shift to handle the new opportunities and challenges of being wired
into the knowledge base. Like managers, many knowledge workers will
to view their role in terms of brokering knowledge rather than
content. Helping others find meaningful content for a specific problem
become more important than prepackaging the notebooks, manuals, and
common today. It is possible that this level, more than any other, will
involve the interplay and integration of automated tools and human
judgment. This also will create the biggest challenge for new
knowledge workers need to be more proactive than reactive. They will
to customize more of their own information flow themselves. This means
able to determine what information they need; knowing how to find it;
knowing how to use personal agents to scan, screen, and track it.
can expect organizations to struggle with how knowledge workers are
and compensated for the value they add. Good ideas generally come from
interaction of multiple people, even when only one gets the credit. An
with virtual communities and casual collaboration, will likely make
and fair compensation for value-add even more nebulous.
us the power to manage in new ways. Taking advantage of the
opportunities requires shifting our view from managing things to
managing knowledge and information flow. This shift requires us to look
at the entire organization, not just the information
in applications and databases, as a knowledge base.
will become complex sharing of sensory information and localized
that change the knowledge base as they happen. The operational metaphor
shift from one of factory processes and parts to one of objects and
from machine to organism, and control will be viewed in terms of
tensions rather than engineered solutions. People will become the key
not as versatile machines but as repositories of unique knowledge to be
shared and blended.
us to perhaps the most exciting possibility: a shift in perspective
the Industrial Revolution as the golden age of individualism and
of community labor to the Information Revolution as the golden age of
development and nurturing of individual knowledge.
a director at Giga Information Group and the author often credited with
the term intranet.
You can read his book Internet Organization online at www.iorg.com/intranetorg.
Published in Oracle Magazine,
1998, p. 11-12
Intranet Organization, by Steven L. Telleen.
Steven L. Telleen, Ph.D.