Monday, January 17, 2005

Knowledge Management: The Power to Save the World

Last Friday I attended a lecture by best-selling author, Pulitzer Prize winner, Professor of Medicine, and Professor of Geography, Jared Diamond. He spoke for an hour to an audience of several hundred in Harvard Square about his new book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.

As he does in Collapse, Diamond spent much of his lecture Friday explaining how important it is for any society to find an environmentally sustainable lifestyle. That's why I was especially struck by his final conclusion. Diamond is "cautiously optimistic" about our own future because one one specific modern innovation: the power of the media to help us learn from each other.

Diamond is one of the few people in the world who can credibly tackle enormous topics like this with a refined sense of global proportion. In his previous book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, which was a best-seller and won him a Pulitzer, Diamond took a similarly big view to explain in amazingly simple and utterly race-free terms why some cultures tend to obliterate others when they come in contact.

Support from an unbiased heavyweight like Diamond is very encouraging news indeed for those of us working to promote knowledge management and other flavors of organizational learning (OL). He did leave a couple things for the rest of us to work out, though, such as
  1. Bad effects of media. Globally, these include homogeneity and base consumerism.
  2. The gap between saving the world and improving my organization's bottom line. Diamond's big picture makes for good OL publicity but of course leaves all the specifics unsaid.
For more about OL check out SOL, a very highly recommened group.

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