Notes from 2004

I was listening to an interview with Steven Johnson on CBC Spark and he suggested that it’s a good practice to take regular notes (like my blog) but also important to review them regularly. I’ve gone through my 2004 posts, which was my first year of full-time blogging on this site, and here is what still remains interesting. Note that in 2004, blogging was not mainstream yet.

In 2004, I posted for the first time — Learning is business, and business is learning — finally.

I was keen on The Cluetrain Manifesto, only five years old at the time, and noted a few lines I really liked:

“Fact is, we don’t care about business — per se, per diem, au gratin. Given half a chance, we’d burn the whole constellation of obsolete business concepts to the waterline. Cost of sales and bottom lines and profit margins — if you’re a company, that’s your problem. But if you think of yourself as a company, you’ve got much bigger worries. We strongly suggest you repeat the following mantra as often as possible until you feel better: “I am not a company. I am a human being.”

I also wrote —

Social networks, communities of practice, expertise locators, etc. have more potential and utility in this medium [the web] than centralized systems such as LCMS (learning content management systems)” [The year before I had been working for a company selling an LCMS].

as well as:

I find that there is still a lot of snake oil being sold as e-learning. If you can help people find what they need, when they need it, in the right context to be useful, then you will have effective content management and/or performance support. The rest is what a friend of mine calls ‘shovel ware’.

More thoughts & comments from 2004

Many companies are trying to find ways to motivate their knowledge workers. This makes me wonder about Peter Drucker’s comment that the corporation as we know it won’t be around in the next 25 years (Managing in the Next Society, 2002). Perhaps the actual structure of work, especially the Corporation itself, is an obstacle to knowledge work. Instead of tweaking the mechanisms of the corporation, through job redesign or cultural initiatives, we should be re-examining the basic structure of the corporation. It is an industrial age creation, designed to maximize physical capital and may not be optimal for maximizing “knowledge capital”.

The network, with its dynamic conversations, is where a lot of knowledge work gets done, and we should be looking at new laws to recognise networks in a similar way that we recognise corporations as legal entities. Is anything like this happening?

Business models that allow leadership to prosper will be essential. These potential leaders, from an “aggressively intelligent citizenry”, need to be free from corporate non-disclosures or government gag orders, and the most effective business model could be the free agent working within a peer network. As tenure was essential for academic freedom, so an unfettered business model may be necessary for future leaders. If all individuals had the rights of today’s corporations, what kind of societal benefits would ensue?

My conclusion for a while has been that knowledge cannot be managed, and neither can knowledge workers. It will take a new social contract between workers and organisations in order to create an optimally functioning enterprise. Adding management and technology won’t help either. This is the crux of everything in the new “right-sized, lean, innovative, creative” economy – getting the right balance between the organisational structure and the knowledge workers.

This piece of advice is worth a revisit:

Each of us is given five balls. One is rubber and four are glass. The rubber ball is work. If you drop it, it will always bounce back. The other four glass balls are family, friends, health and integrity. If you drop them, they are shattered. They won’t bounce back.

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