Carlos Leyva

Silicon Stories

Chapter 8

Knowledge Management & Infotainment

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An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not the idea whose time has come.

—Victor Hugo

Forget big bang, top-down, big brother approaches to knowledge management (KM). The people peddling this stuff are selling pure snake oil, at very steep prices. It is the height of intellectual arrogance for anyone to pretend to have answers and deep insights in this emerging discipline. We are all babes in the woods, barely scratching the surface, and not very successfully at that. So don’t expect to find answers in this chapter! The most I can hope to accomplish is to share a few insights and to comment on research that appears quite interesting.

I can’t tell you what KM is, but I can tell you, with some degree of certainty, what it is not. KM is not discussion databases, document management systems, data warehousing, data mining, email on steroids or any other existing software category that, at one time or another, has been proposed as part of a KM solution. These technologies have their place, and when used appropriately can produce significant returns on investment; however, they should not be confused with KM.

What is infotainment? The obvious answer is the combination of information and entertainment. It is one of those words that the digerati invented to mean whatever they (we) wanted it to. I will take artistic license (again) and provide yet another usage for this word. Infotainment describes the way marketing delivers stories in a world of rich electronic content. Although the Internet is full of experiments, businesses, on the whole, have been reluctant to adopt rich multi-media in order to turbo charge their online marketing efforts. Despite this, infotainment will become the knowledge conduit of choice between buyers and sellers. The more interactive it is, the more effective it will be.

One of the principal arguments for this reluctance has been the issue of insufficient bandwidth. Rich content is bandwidth intensive, and the only thing that consumers’ hate more than a poorly designed web site, is a slow one. Bandwidth remains a real issue. Despite the fact that DSL and Cable Modems have improved the state of the art, we still have some distance to go before fast universal access is available to the masses. Even access from within many corporate firewalls remains pathetically slow. Many employees have faster access at home.

Knowledge workers require fast access to the largest information repository known to man. The Internet, as a legitimate work-centric resource, is so prevalent and so important, that it perplexes the shit out of me why corporations do not make high speed access for their employees a number one priority. These same organizations preach the virtues of automation while at the same time slowing down everyone’s productivity.

So fucking what if employees use the Internet to check their stocks and keep up with the news of the world? Misuse is an altogether different problem, not unlike spending hours on the phone with friends and family. Perhaps you should install the cheapest phone system you can buy, one that guarantees static, as a way to cut down on personal phone use.

Another, more insidious reason, why corporations have been slow to adopt rich content as a marketing tool, is our puritanical social history. Rich content feels too much like Hollywood, an idea that we are all attracted to but often for all the wrong (read sinful) reasons. Be careful though, cling to staid corporate images at your own risk. You will be victimized by nostalgia for a business world that was never real to begin with. Even the most conservative of corporations (e.g. IBM) are now going out of their way to appear hip.

KM, Infotainment and eLearning are all converging into alternative story-telling mechanisms. These ideas are indelibly linked in my mind since there is so much conceptual overlap that blurs any clear lines of demarcation. In each case the power resides in the story, although multi-media technologies certainly enhance it.

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