THE SHARING OF KNOWLEDGE Both inside and outside a company’s gates, great things often begin at…
THE SHARING OF KNOWLEDGE
Both inside and outside a company’s gates, great things often begin at those fortunate moments when people with knowledge and vision pool their dreams. A perfect example: WorldCom, Inc., the company that merged with MCI to form MCI WorldCom, Inc., now the fourth-largest telecommunications company in the world, had its origins at a coffee shop in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, when four executives who knew the business got together exactly 1 month after AT&T’s long-distance monopoly was broken by antitrust laws. Is it luck or knowledge?
Of course, businesspeople can meet by design at regular times and places, but the spontaneous appearance of a group that can develop a shared vision has historically been the product of a chance meeting on the stairs, on the elevator, by the coffee machine, or at the water cooler. Knowledge management proponents today believe that those chance interactions that mix and reformulate knowledge can and should be systematically encouraged. It can happen in one office, but time and geography are no longer constraints to collaborative work. The creation of a profitable idea—like MCI WorldCom—always takes hard work but is never just dumb luck. Larry Prusak, executive director of IBM’s Institute for Knowledge Management in Waltham, Massachusetts, says, “All of life and business is a game of odds. Just as HR policies increase the odds of employee retention, and good customer service increases the odds toward repeat business, knowledge management is about increasing the odds toward knowledge being transferred, utilized, and contributing to innovation.”