Knowledge as an Asset:

Stakeholder Perspectives in a Knowledge Economy

Ted Lumley

Knowledge Management in Oil & Gas

Houston, June 24/25, 1997

Background and Basic Concepts:

This discussion was originally prepared for the February/97 version of this knowledge management (KM) conference and has been revised to better address the issues and questions which arose at that (London) meeting. My starting point this time will be the prime finding of the London group, that while there is a strongly recognized need for a more deliberate approach to dealing with knowledge related issues in business, the emergent concepts, definitions and techniques associated with KM appear immature and confusing.

The imagery that comes to my mind in connection with the variety of early views and directions on knowledge management, is reminiscent of the hand-held Global Positioning System (GPS) which I recently purchased. When you start it up, it shows you all of the satellites which are currently above the horizon in your line of sight (usual about 12 out of the total of 24) and which are all broadcasting different signals to you. In the process of considering all these different messages, the GPS receiver doesn't end up by selecting "the one" it likes best; instead, it extracts the essence common to all of them, and in so doing, comes up with an impressively accurate assessment of where you are and where you're headed.

So, here's my attempt at a GPS "fix" on the primary essentials of KM, synthesized from a variety of different "signals" on this topic, and emphasizing those at the last version of this conference.

1. KM is not new, it has just never been formalized in the past. In migrating away from a strong function-based orientation into an equally strong asset-management orientation, a lot of informal knowledge management practice has been disrupted (e.g. mentoring and master/apprentice orientations). Those who are coming at KM from a complexity science (Complex Adaptive Systems) background might say that previous KM practice was of a self-organizing nature. Because KM is not faring well on its own as we go through successive transitions in management practice, there is a need for a more deliberate and explicit awareness of, and approach to KM.

2. There are two fundamental but related types of knowledge-based systems which are being referred to by different names, depending on one's background. These two systems types are at the same time complementary and antagonistic, like the poles on a magnet. I refer to them as "fabricative" and "creative" knowledge orientations according to whether they correspond to closed, equilibrium systems or to open non-equilibrium systems, in complexity sciences terminology. David Feeny (Director of Oxford Institute of Information Management), who co-chaired the London session, calls them "convergent" and "divergent" knowledge-based systems. I'll continue using his terminology throughout this talk.

A convergent knowledge orientation focuses down and in on the detailed nature and workings of specific products and services, while a divergent knowledge orientation explores the patterns of relationships amongst a web or network composed of multiple convergent subsystems. Feeny uses the example of Richard Branson's Virgin Enterprises to describe a divergent knowledge-based system. Virgin uses its knowledge of market opportunities and high quality existing product and service resources to network the two together into new business ventures. For example, with a handful of staff Virgin established Virgin Cola and rapidly captured 15% of the UK soft drinks market.

Thus, one can look at knowledge management in terms of supporting the spatial assessment of many relational options (e.g. potential alliances or web enterprises) and the selection from amongst those options. And/or, one can look at knowledge management in terms of supporting a focused optimization of a specifically selected option (product or service). This polar difference in knowledge management approaches, divergent and convergent, presents itself on multiple levels; industry, company, department, team etc.

3. At the level of people, rather than organizations and systems, the two fundamental but related (again, in both a complementary and anagonistic way) types of knowledge are referred to by different names, depending on one's background. I refer to them as either "explicit" (or "simple") and "implicit" (or "complex") to correspond to the psychological terms for memory type [3] (or complexity science terms as in the parentheses). Some call these types of knowledge "explicit" and "tacit" and many call them "hard" and "soft". All agree with David Feeny's premise that in the domain of knowledge management, whatever you call them, the challenge in dealing with them can be described as "hard" and "harder", respectively.

Explicit knowledge management is concerned with factual and procedural knowledge which can be extracted from the heads of employees (i.e. articulated in standard language) and archived and distributed using knowledge repository etc. technology. Implicit knowledge is high dimensional pattern-based knowledge, such as the knowledge required to ride a bicycle or in team learning. Such experiential knowledge cannot be extracted from the brain because it cannot be articulated in standard discourse, and neither can it be voluntarily recalled. One "knows" it when one is experiencing it.

The management techniques for implicit knowledge, since extraction and electronic archiving and distribution techniques are not applicable, focus on people, their in-situ knowledge, and the orchestration of collective thinking and action. These approaches for implicit knowledge management, while they too can benefit from a computing technology assist, involve techniques and technologies which differ greatly from those of explicit knowledge management. The management of implicit knowledge involves such things as the "management of conversations", establishment of teaching/learning cultures and the development of collective action stimulating tools such as the virtual team tools BP speaks about.

4. Figure 1. relates these two pairs of knowledge orientations.

Implicit knowledge and divergent knowledge-based systems are both associated with the recognition of relational patterns. Implicit knowledge at the people level, equips one to recognize valuable external relationship patterns and opens the door to high performance teamwork; and at the system or organizational level, enables the recognition of valuable external relationship patterns such as alliance opportunities.

Explicit knowledge contributes to an analytical (linear-causal) understanding of the internal workings of things. At the people level, an example would be 3D seismic, and at the system level, an example would be crude oil production.

So the four corners of the quadrangle represent very different types of KM orientation, for which the KM emphasis and approach will vary commensurately. If once's core business is niche product oriented, such as Intel's, one's explicit technical knowledge may represent the crown jewels and will need to be the focus of KM effort. If one's core business is oriented to the orchestrating of groups of product and service providers to satisfy a new market demand, like Virgin's, cultivating one's implicit knowledge of potentially harmonious patterns across the producing and consuming sides of the market will be the key focus for the KM initiative. And if you are the Apollo 13 ensemble of explicit knowledge experts, after the technical disaster strikes, it is the group's collective implicit knowledge of the optional patterns and relationships that support the high performance teamwork essential to redesigning and implementing a new re-entry system in less than 90 hours.

While the time is too constrained to go into it any detail, there is close to a one-to-one correspondence between the above generalized KM matrix and the concepts and models of complexity science (ref. "Complexity and the 'Learning Organization'") [2].

It may be useful to delve very briefly into a complexity analogue or two to illustrate some of the major differences in KM approach mandated by different knowledge types.

One such difference derives from the fact that explicit knowledge characteristically deals with linear processes in which the output of the system is proportional to the input. An appropriate metaphor might be a steam flood on a heavy oil field; the more you jack up the temperature and pressure, the more production you get. On the other hand, implicit knowledge characteristically deals with nonlinear systems which lack this proportionality between output and input. A metaphor for implicit knowledge based systems is the sandpile at critical angle of repose to which one is continuously adding sandgrains at the crest. The output from this model is "avalanches" which are unpredictable in size and frequency, and are triggered by a single input grain (i.e. there is no linear proportionality between input and output). Insights (implicit knowledge) are engendered in people's minds in a nonlinear fashion similar to the triggering of avalanches by single input "grains". The distribution of these avalanches or insights follow a power law which means that there are many more small ones than big ones.

Since "management" involves measurement and rewards, it is important to note in dealing with explicit knowledge-based processes, assessment and rewards can be pursued on a periodic calendar or project-oriented schedule, but in the case of implicit knowledge-based processes, management must sit on the "eggs" until they hatch, and the gestation period relates to natural lifecycles rather than arbitrary calendar periods.

Thus, implicit and explicit knowledge-based approaches associate with differing lifecycles, techniques and technologies. This means that it is important to have an overview of the full suite of KM approaches, reconciling them with the characteristics of the business, prior to jumping in arbitrarily on a specific KM initiative. Professor Johan Roos referred to this in the London session as "visualizing the overall knowledge challenge".

To put these KM choices into an industry project perspective, imagine sitting in with a group of people who are coming together for the first time, for a discussion on 'knowledge management', each having an interest or 'stake' of some sort, in a profitable North Sea oil & gas development. The aim of all present; oil company manager, oil company employee, shareholder, supplier, government official, shipping rep, banking rep and consumer, is to ensure that the knowledge associated with this successful venture will be well managed into the future.

But as they begin their discussions, they quickly realize that they need to return to basics and define their terms in an agreed way; i.e. to some, knowledge will equate to the implicit experiential lessons learned by the active participants as the project evolved. To others, knowledge will equate to the explicit factual and procedural information needed to sustain steady-state operations. To the environmentally minded in the group, the lessons of Piper Alpha and other major disasters will have them focusing on training and teamwork related knowledge management. In terms of systems, some will think in divergent terms, of managing knowledge related to, for example, opportunities for mutualistic regional gas collection and marketing alliances. Others will think in convergent terms, of opportunities to refine specific components and procedures to improve unit production costs. The techniques and the lifecycles associated with the various options are likely to be very different.

Thus, there is an imperative to reconcile differing stakeholder perspectives, as well as current core business needs, with the knowledge management program. There is one other major "cultural" issue which persistently comes into play, and this is what some people refer to as the split between the "hardies" (those inclined to emphasize explicit knowledge and technology-oriented solutions) and the "softies" (those inclined to emphasize implicit knowledge and people-oriented solutions). My London version of this presentation spent more time on the cultural issues (which are the biggest issues in KM , after one gets by the theory aspects). Since I've allocated more time to the basic concepts, I'll abbreviate the cultural remarks and simply bring forth the obvious, that there has been a tremendous historical bias in favor of explicit knowledge over implicit knowledge in both science and business. Heraclitus and Aristotle, Kepler and Newton, Herb Kelleher and John Q. Fortune-Fifty, all embraced polar opposite views, the former in each pair being strong advocates of subordinating explicit to implicit knowledge and the latter being strong advocates of subordinating implicit to explicit knowledge (or perhaps even ignoring the contribution of implicit knowledge in the development of formal scientific or business frameworks).

The point which is very apparent in the "four types of knowledge orientation" graphic, however, is that there is a time and place for both implicit and explicit knowledge. The complementary interplay between the two "ways of knowing" centers around the fact that implicit knowledge generates options by assessing the relative value-adding significance of real or hypothesized relational patterns while explicit knowledge provides for the exploitation of the selected option/s.

As the complexity of business rises, astuteness in searching for options becomes increasingly important. The options have been historically constrained by the "rules of engagement", an ingrained cultural constraint which determines how a company engages with its external and internal stakeholders. The "rules of engagement" are progressively shifting away from a fixed transactional basis towards a more personal, dynamic and flexible basis, in keeping with the complex adaptive systems model of "autonomous co-evolution" [4].

This pretty much concludes the GPS "fix" portion of this discussion. When the GPS has extracted the common essentials from the variety of incoming signals, it then (theoretically) knows where it is, so that it can display the current position and flip to a new screen in preparation for navigating to some desired destination, or to review prior travels in the context of this newly defined starting point.

The next part of this presentation will review some paths previously travelled as they lead into the present and orient themselves towards the future. This will be done through the "eyes" of oil industry retirees whose views were captured in two recent "Wellspring" sessions. These sessions, which are described and suggested in Debra Mae Amidon's Book "The Ken Awakening" [5] (which in turn cites the work of Dorothy Leonard-Barton in her book 'Wellsprings of Knowledge: Building and Sustaining the Sources of Innovation.'), were aimed at extracting the major "morphs" in oil industry business topography which are causing significant change in value flow and accrual patterns.

The Wellspring findings will be presented in their original context and reconciliation with the above-discussed knowledge management concepts will be added subsequently.

Wellspring Insights:

Ambiguity on knowledge management issues, arising from alternative views on how to orient the investment in KM (e.g. towards intellectual or physical assets) is compounded by a diversity of views coming from increasingly well-informed groups of stakeholders. The goal of developing a better understanding of how all these issues come together in the 'real world' of oil & gas led to the organizing of two "Wellspring" sessions in Dallas , in December and January.

The target resource was retired petroleum professionals (including executive level staff). It had occurred to me that, commensurate with the decline of Texas 'black gold', the reserves of 'gray gold' have been on the build, as thousands of international oil industry professionals of various origin returned to seats of company operations in Houston and Dallas, which served as staging grounds for post-retirement activity. My informal solicitation of interest in the Wellspring as a 'knowledge recycling' exercise drew a positive response from all asked, and two sessions of four people each were held (max. desirable size, as it turned out).

The Wellspring 'insights' presented here are from the original summary format, after validation by the participants.

The Wellspring Process

Each of the two Wellspring sessions was comprised of four (three plus myself) internationally experienced retirees who had worked with one or more oil companies (predominantly major oil companies). All were seasoned career professionals in either the Sciences or Engineering and had been successful managers, two at the GM or above level. The sessions lasted two hours each, with participants being given a 'timeline' handout for initial stimulus, showing major industry events as captured from Daniel Yergin's book "The Prize" and other Industry publications. Participants were given minimal guidance, the main message being a solicitation of their gut-level views of watershed events or trends significantly impacting company and industry activities.

In both sessions, energy ran unabatingly high for two hours and it was often difficult, even with only three active participants and a 'recorder', to get a word in edgewise. Ideas were delivered from the gut and converged and refined themselves on the fly. While the viewing angles were often different, consensus on the main issues was strong, and all participants expressed that they thoroughly enjoyed the process.

Roughly ten pages of notes were captured at each session and these were summarized and distributed, then merged after one cycle of feedback and revision. The insights and outlook from the Wellsprings as excerpted from the Wellspring summary are presented in the following sequence of tables.

Insights from the Wellspring Sessions

The insights fell naturally into six dimensions and were summarized on that basis; i.e. by the categories of; People Development, Opportunity, Company Drivers, Organization, Agreements, and Risk.

With respect to differences in stakeholder perspective, not surprisingly, all participants "changed caps" with ease, expressing and supporting the views of employee, manager, investor and host community, according to the flow of the discussion. The participants were clearly respectful of all industry sectors where honest value systems prevailed, from suppliers to governments, and were unrepressedly critical of those elements which they felt to be counterproductive to stakeholder harmonies. While it is said that people tend to "live their roles" at work, the data strongly suggests that having lived several stakeholder roles during their careers, these participants' views and values now associate with those events and trends which catalyzed win-win collaboration across the full oil & gas business community.

In reviewing industry trends and projections, one hears much repetition and overlap. It would be possible to make a random selection from a list of such trends to produce the six summary tables which follow. Thus the value in these finding is not in the bullets taken by themselves, but in the coherent patterns which emerge.

Wellspring Insights in Six Dimensions


Perceived Trends:

Highly valued master/apprentice traditions are declining

Unprofessional "quick-fix" approaches are on the rise

Growth of "dynastic nepotism" in some companies

Outlook on Winning Themes:

Maintaining a mentoring/teaching/learning culture

Cultivating master/apprentice "role models"

Eradicating "warrior dynasty" mentalities


Perceived Trends:

Granularity of opportunity is shrinking

Number of risk variables rising (technical, political, economic)

Traditional approach to reserves replacement no longer viable.

Outlook on Winning Themes:

More effective knowledge sharing

Incorporating greater diversity of viewpoints

Refraining from "management topsiding" of decisions

Transformation in basic business outlook/approach


Perceived Trends:

Growth of "warrior culture"

Decline of "legacy-accruing" leadership

Outlook on Winning Themes

Purging of "swashbuckling" management

Leadership focus on organizational legacy, stakeholder harmony


Perceived Trends

Shifting from "moral networks" to "warrior dynasties"

Employees "orphaned" by high-efficiency power-based dynasties

Stakeholder orientation rising in International operations

Outlook on Winning Themes:

Multi-stakeholder span for "moral networks"

Simultaneous optimization of stakeholder needs and aspirations


Perceived Trends:

Shift from "blind cash bids" to openness, trust, knowledge-sharing

Shift to multi-stakeholder negotiations and agreements

Shift to full technical disclosure

International Govt's lead US Gov't in knowledge-based agreements

Outlook on Winning Themes:

Shift to openness, trust, knowledge sharing

As above; applied to internal and external stakeholders

Development of culture and competencies in managing knowledge


Perceived Trends

Rising complexity in risk exposures

Ambiguous, confused perspectives and approaches

Oscillation between avoidance, granulizing, confrontation

Outlook on Winning Themes:

Renovation and institutionalizing of risk-addressing tactics

Granulizing of risk and generation of alternative options

Wellspring Synthesis:

Within the dataset taken as a whole are several strong, coherent messages. Perhaps the dominant message is in the overwhelming representation of knowledge related factors in the "Outlook on Winning Themes"; i.e. the cultivation of teaching/learning culture, master/apprentice culture, open-trusting-knowledge-sharing, inclusion of diversity of viewpoints, distributed decisions, stakeholder solutions, knowledge networks, knowledge culture and competencies. And further reinforcing the knowledge orientation is the insight that winning initiatives are associated with the removal of inhibitors to open knowledge sharing; e.g. eradicating out-of-place warrior mentalities, avoiding management 'topsides', and purging of 'swashbuckling management'. It is worth noting that all participants had solid management experience ranging up to the senior management level.

Nipping on the heels of the knowledge theme is the rather alarming "Perceived Trend" of a rising 'warrior dynasty'. The overwhelming comment on management was that it was trending away from the 'benevolent dictators' of the past, towards a warrior breed, which, unlike their predecessors, were leaving no slack for underground organic networks to do their thing. Instead, the focus was more often on making the 'numbers', better and faster. Those seen to be efficient at achieving current objectives, almost regardless of their understanding and/or respecting of the complex underlying issues of a professional, technical and social nature, or the longer term legacy of reflexive policy-boosting quick-fixes, .... these were seen to be emergent role models.

Sour grapes, you may say, from old-timers who would never grant that a new generation of management could handle things as well as they. However, such a conclusion would definitely not jive with the balanced tone of the actual discussions where much credit was given to many new themes and players, spanning the full stakeholder suite.

While the discussion was consistently 'straight', open and honest, the third theme struck me as the most gut-felt. This was the perceived shift, strongly approved of by all participants, to a more open and honest form of business agreement in which available knowledge was fully shared with all stakeholders. Initiated by National governments in the late sixties and seventies (Canada and Norway were specifically cited), the oil companies were at first resentful of having to expose their knowledge of the offered properties and local economic scene, and having to present fully detailed plans, often in the presence of local industrialists, farmers and fishermen (e.g. in Norway). The occasions were seen to be increasingly rare (outside of the US) where a manager could show up with a 'sackful of cash' to negotiate an exploration license or production sharing contract. In fact such an approach is now prohibited by law in countries such as Norway.

Negotiations for licensing agreements progressively required a full technical contingent and full disclosure of knowledge of the offered leases and development and operating approaches (i.e. those planned and as practiced elsewhere). Proposals were examined in the context of their impact on regional business ecologies. This practice, further spurred by competition, induced the internal staffs of oil companies to develop more integrated evaluations, and to begin to use the same open, knowledge sharing approaches in internal company 'agreements', external supplier dealings, and with competitors on issues such as computing and technical standards (e.g. POSC).

From the full Wellspring dataset, the impression emerges that in the 'old' days, while the business nominally operated according to a 'Newtonian game' with all of its command-and-control trappings, the real work got done by informal unregulated and undocumented (i.e. self-organizing) 'Keplerian' networks of mentors, masters, apprentices and cooperating associates. As suggested by one of the Wellspring participants, the 'true' wellsprings of organizational success were similar in description to the trusting 'moral networks' or 'keiretsu' as described by Francis Fukuyama in 'Trust' [6]. Also in the vein of 'Trust', was the perceived rise of a warrior dynasty who either mistook the overt 'Newtonian game' as the value-generator, or who were simply more interested in leveraging company resources to make their personal mark, than they were in leaving a legacy of prosperity to employees, long-term shareholders and host communities. What emerges from the insights is the certainty that these two very different 'games' are vying for supremacy in the underbelly of the petroleum business.

In terms of implicit/divergent versus explicit/convergent knowledge management orientations, it seems clear that changing nature of opportunity is placing increased demands on the former orientations. The generating of relational opportunity options appears to fit well with (or to be induced by) the needs of government oil companies who are more interested in the overall health of the regional economy than in buying into explicit "silver bullet" technology claims which tend to look much the same across the contending companies.

In contrast the the rising business demand for implicit knowledge management is the apparent rise in "warrior mentality" which seems to represent a shift in KM emphasis away from implicit towards explicit knowledge. This may be an artifact of the "do more with less" syndrome which appearst to related to the erosion of mentoring and legacy-building business attributes.

Conclusions :

Conclusion 1: KM Comes in More Than One Flavor

1. From a "complexity" perspective, there are four basic orientations to knowledge management which associate with very different KM techniques, technologies and lifecycles. While all four appear to be necessary, on some scale, for long term business survival, different quadrants may need to be emphasized depending on current enterprise need and vision.

This can be illustrated by highlighting the KM quadrant emphasis (refer to Figure 1.) in several familiar cases;

Apollo 13:

The Apollo 13 project team was able to achieve a next-to-impossible successful redesign and implementation of a complex re-entry system in 90 hours. Clearly, the only way to approach the problem was to generate creative relational options in a high performance teamwork mode. Expertise, niche technology products and industrial alliances, were all taken for granted (temporarily) given the nature of Apollo 13's post-explosion enterprise vision. The knowledge management techniques implicitly used by the Apollo team included the management of conversations and the use of nonlinear simulations (i.e. simulating procedures and equipment substitutions to assess the odds on their working under "real life" conditions).

Southwest Airlines:

Southwest Airlines [7] has been extremely successful in emphasizing the combination of attitude and expertise, instead of focusing predominantly on the latter, which has been the tradition of their competitors. Southwest invests significantly more than most companies in recruiting and cultivating "great attitudes" along with great competencies. "Great attitudes" associate with implicit knowledge and relational skills which can catalyze high performance teamwork. Thus, Southwest's hiring and rewards programs are infused with knowledge management goals.

Virgin Enterprises:

Virgin, like Ocean Pacific and other spawners of web enterprises before them, has been able to orchestrate a number of high quality niche product and service providers into a highly competitive web enterprise. In the core of a Virgin enterprise, or an Ocean Pacific are very few people, but those who are there have strong knowledge of the relational patterns behind all phases of a particular industry segment (design, fabrication, marketing, distribution, sales etc.) and they also possess a "nose" for quality in each phase. These skills are leveraged by support tools which give them current information on "what is going on out there" so that they can recognize opportune patterns and sustain their exploitation of them.


Intel has achieved an amazing degree of success on the basis of scientific/technologic expertise and niche product (computer chips) offerings. That their explicit knowledge is vital to their enterprise vision and strategic intent is highlighted by their current litigation with Digital over the ownership and use of proprietary design information. The lawsuit may also highlight a shortfall in their web enterprise knowledge management skills.


Motorola, under the leadership of Bob Galvin, appears to have an exceptional sense of balance and commitment with respect to knowledge management. Through a multi-billion dollar investment centered around Motorola University, Motorola, in addition to maintaining high levels of technical expertise and niche product leadership, is cultivating "behavioral leaders" with the combined attitudes and competencies to engender both high performance teamwork and web enterprise opportunities and leave positive ongoing legacies in terms of improved work and business practices.. "I envision our company, within the next five to ten years, having a few thousand people who will be called 'leaders' and they will be automatically resourced for whatever they want to do that's right for the corporation. Some may say, you can't afford my estimation, we can't afford not to, because by the time this is a maturing thought, we will already be a 200 billion dollar company, ..." [1]

Conclusion 2: The Nature of Change and "Rules of Engagement" Impact KM

As communications open the door to increasingly strong and nonlinear feedback amongst the business variables, change can no longer be viewed in linear terms of the constituent "parts" of an organization or business environment. Both must be viewed and approached in terms of a "metamorphosis" in which new constituents continually emerge, morph and subduct. Traditional transaction-oriented "rules of engagement" are not well-matched to this environment, and a more relational "autonomous co-evolution" type of business response, which leans heavily on implicit and divergent knowledge management, is demanded.

Conclusion 3: The Changing Nature of Opportunity is a Strong Driver of KM

As was noted in the Wellspring sessions, one of the emergent factors in the petroleum business is the rise of a well-informed stakeholder community. The linking of access to new sources of hydrocarbons, through open dialogue, with the harmony of exploration and producing operations relative to regional business ecology and active participation of multiple stakeholders (suppliers, government enterprise, environmental agencies etc.) induces a rising emphasis on relational patterns and the management of implicit and divergent knowledge supporting the identification of the most favorable options.

Conclusion 4: Conflicting Trends in Management Orientation Lead to KM Conflict

The Wellspring groups observed a marked rise in "warrior dynasties" and "quick fix mentalities" accompanied by a decline in legacy-building leadership. Much has been written about this trend, epitomized in the sacrificing of time to think, reflect, teach and learn to the runaway competition for lower overheads and shorter term results. Articles such as Pete Rose's "The Decline of Mentoring: Reweaving the Fabric" (May/97 Houston Geological Society Newsletter) and Marlon Downey's "Good People Create Good Results" (May/97 AAPG Explorer) continue to highlight the management trend towards racing for results at the expense of building professional and organizational learning legacies. The conclusion that this struggle between conflicting management orientations (warrior versus legacy builder) is indeed going on, ties back to one of the initial assumptions in that much of the mentoring, master/apprentice and associated teaching/learning strains of knowledge management was left to their own informal and self-organizing devices. A non-cynical view would be that the rise in warrior-dynasties is fed by the fact that no prior deliberate approaches to knowledge management were in place and that the "warrior" approach is prospering inappropriately due to missing KM entries on the balance sheets which effectively discount the value contribution of legacy builders.

Conclusion 5: There is Strong Interplay Between Culture and Knowledge Management

The cultural affinity for managing solely on the basis of explicit knowledge, a strong and pervasive tradition, appears to be progressively less appropriate to today's business need. The fact that knowledge management efforts associated with implicit and divergent knowledge (relational pattern based efforts) have long been subordinated to the management of explicit and convergent knowledge is not accidental. Culturally, the "hard" perspectives have grossly outweighed the "soft" perspectives and while the former have provided the core drive behind deliberate knowledge management programs such as exist (e.g. asset exploitation oriented knowledge management), the latter KM needs have been left to their own devices. In addition, business's transaction-oriented "rules of engagement" have been a strong unwritten cultural tradition and constraint. The strength of these cultural rules was discussed in the London session in the context of John Byng, a British Admiral who was executed for breaking the Naval "rules of engagement", as Voltaire said; "to encourage the others". There are obvious parallels in business.

While there was no time to delve more deeply into cultural issues in this session, the need for the qualities of honesty, trust and humility emerge naturally in the implicit/divergent components of KM programs [2] [5].

Finally, while Kepler, a "softie" struggled to retain the implicit relational aspects of astronomical motion within the problem description, Newton, a "hardie", had no compunction in discarding the soft aspects as "noise" and in doing so set the the stage for hundreds of years of relationally insensitive management practice. While current business need is demanding the revival of implicit knowledge concepts, a few cultural impediments may stand in the way of having hard-nosed business managers "chase" these concepts whose subtlety Kepler captures via the following quote from Virgil;

'Galatea seeks me mischievously, the lusty wench;

She flees to the willows, but hopes I'll see her first.'

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Wellspring Session Participants: Lou Christian, Ken Keller, Ted Lumley, Claude McMichael, Jack Rousso, Bill Sinclair, Bob Watson:

Wellspring Summary Reviewers: Lou Christian, Jack Rousso, Bill Sinclair


[1] Galvin, Robert W., "The Learning Organization", Keynote Address, Knowledge Advantage II Conference, Chicago Nov, 1995 (available on tape)

[2] Lumley, Ted, "Complexity and the 'Learning Organization'", Complexity, Journal of the Santa Fe Institute Vol 2, No. 5

[3] Schacter, Daniel L., "Searching for Memory", Harper-Collins, 1996

[4] Kauffman, Stuart, "Complexity", Journal of the Santa Fe Institute, Nov/Dec, 1996

[5] Amidon, Debra M., "The Ken Awakening", Butterworth Heinemann, 1997

[6] Fukuyama, Francis, "Trust", Free Press, 1995

[7] Kelleher, Herb, "Quality Awareness", Keynote Address, Quality Awareness Forum, Dallas, Oct 9, 1995

Additional related material at