Sunday, May 11, 2008

Knowledge Intersection

I was reading a blog some days back (cant seem to find it now, or i am just too lazy on a Sunday morning ... not that theres anything special about Sundays) which was talking about looking outside your field to get new ideas. Usually, you been to one conference, you been to all of them. So, the novelty usually tends to be the drinks!

I have been thinking how this concept impacts the entire idea of knowledge creation. Lets take a team ... which is purely inward looking. Theoretically, if they never had any interactions with anyone from outside the team, i surmise that they would come up with ideas from within a given pool of ideas, and this pool would never grow. That the ideas and thoughts and learnings would continue to recycle from a given set, and would simply go round in circles. Anybody disagree with this premise, i would be more than happy to read more about it.

Anyway, if we build on this premise ... The logical consequence of this would be that new knowledge is generated at the intersection of existing bodies of knowledge. If we were to take two teams, or individuals, with their own given set of ideas and learnings about the world around, it is in the region of intersection of their "information sets" that new knowledge is generated. It is in this intersection that ideas are exchanged freely, and ideas of the one are understood by the other, and built upon, to create completely new ideas. If these two folks didnt have any area of intersection, they would simply be like a Hindi speaking, and a Tamil speaking man put together in the same room, neither understanding what the other is saying.

The important point i am trying to make out is that we often have certain information about the world. We have knowledge ... and, this combines with knowledge from others, to create new forms of knowledge.

One implication ... we as KM practitioners, must look outside the field at other areas to look at newer ideas of knowledge generation, discussion, and sharing.

For example, I am reading a book titled The Indus Saga written by Aitzaz Ahsan. And, i am definitely learning so much about a country we in India dont know much about ... Pakistan. So what if we are neighbours. I believe that it is at the intersection of knowledge about our respective selves and our world views that new knowledge would be created.

The question this brings out ... how best can the intersection be shared between two people. This is where the importance of "mental models" cannot be overestimated. One must understand where the other person is coming from, and where they are going. And, to illustrate their point, must relate it to the image of the world the other person is carrying. And, this is where stories play a vauable role. This is where a story, using simple language, and building the essential points, can be highly effective to create an understanding of each other. Read The Indus Saga, and you would find out.


Rena said...

Hi Atul,
The mail about your article came well timed. I was just preparing to deliver on a "Conflict Management and Effective Teams" session as part of a Leadership Workshop. The aspect of working with different people as working with different mental models really appealed to me.This article is one of the stories I'd be talking about.

Atul said...

Hi Reena, you might want to read up more on The Fifth Discipline by Dr. Peter Senge!