Posted by Jeff Kelly on November 15, 2008
In a stark example of ageist bigotry parading as insight, Venkatesh Rao is trying to instigate a war that does not, and need not, exist. He believes that knowledge management (KM) advocates and social media (SM) advocates are at odds with each other. His divisive post imagines a war between KM and SM. Evidently, after encountering resistance to his polarized view of SM, he authored the dense tirade as a call to a war that does not exist. His post brings to mind William Randolph Hearst’s quote, “You furnish the pictures, I’ll furnish the war.” (Although that is history and Rao dismisses the importance of such institutional knowledge. He’s doomed to repeat a great deal of history, I suppose.)
I see no reason why we should respond to Rao’s call to war. His evidence in support of war are little more than petulant responses to people’s inevitable resistance to change. He supports his opinions with fallacy in an attempt to create generational conflict. My personal favorite: “…RSS and Mash-ups are culturally Gen X ideas…” I wonder how Dave Winer, the primary inventor/advocate of RSS, would feel about that statement since he falls solidly in the Boomer generation that Rao seems to disdain. Statements like “The Boomers don’t really get or like engineering and organizational complexity,” beg a cultural flame-war. But I will resist. Instead, let me make a case for KM and SM peace.
A few bad apples don’t spoil the whole bunch. All change champions encounter resistance – sad fact of the human condition. And many entrenched incumbents can be especially resistant to the status quo. But we paint with too broad a brush if we let a handful of stubborn dinosaurs define an entire group of people. I have been in KM for over a decade and have been active in SM since the term was coined. And amongst the advocates of both, I see many more examples of integration than I do of segregation.
Social media actualizes the idealism of KM. In the workshops I deliver on Enterprise 2.0, I often refer to it as “KM 1.53” This alludes to the fact that the goals of E2.0 are nearly identical to the goals of KM. E2.0 (SM in the workplace) delivers the platforms and tools necessary to reach the KM ideals we have sought for years. While the inherent ungoverned disorder of social media seems radical to some KM administrators, most KM advocates welcome these tools in their quest to free information and improve performance.
Most KM practitioners recognize the value of SM. I have presented keynotes and workshops on SM at KM Australia and KM Asia. At both, I have found many more eager adopters than resistant dinosaurs. Based on my experience, most KM practitioners are excited about SM tools and platforms and are looking for ways to incorporate them into the current KM strategies as soon as possible. As for the less structured aspect of SM, the response to my “Abandon Your Content Management System – KM in the age of GooTube” presentation at KM Australia was very positive.
Rao ended his post with his prediction of how the war will end. Please read it yourself, but I would summarize it as: the old resistant people will die and the young righteous people will prevail. I will close with my prediction of how the peace will continue: Our technology and society will continue to evolve; people will continue to be resistant to (but finally adapt to) change; youth will continue to disdain their elders until they become tempered by wisdom; and the opportunities to learn and prosper will continue to grow for those wise enough to do so.