Ants?…KM! Ants?…KM! KM?…Yes, KM!

Meat eating ant feeding on honey.

Ants when scouting for new nesting sites or food sources have no leader giving orders. Instead as they travel they leave a trail of scent for other ants, called “scouts”, to follow. Scouts that find a good nesting site or food source in turn leave more scent along the same trail. Eventually, one site is selected from many potential sites in a sort of “chemical democracy” based on the strongest combined chemical strength left by more and more scouts. This organizing process is both simple and powerful. And so without any need for bosses they efficiently find new places to live and new food sources.

So what do ants have to do with Knowledge Management? Glad you asked!

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Socialization and the Need to Take Time to Think

The Thinker, sculpture at the Musée Rodin in Paris

On May 2nd, Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry was speaking at a KM conference and told the audience that he felt that managers needed to “engage” their people. He offered up an example of failing to engage by describing managers who were walking around or riding elevators while using their smart phones instead of talking with their employees. He described that as a missed opportunity to show employees that they cared and that they actually wanted employees to speak up and share their views.

While saying that I agree completely with what John Berry said and agree that this is certainly one of those cultural issues that impact organizations all the time, I’d like to take his thought a step or two further. Sort of run with it to discuss what I think is an additional issue altogether. I’m talking about the need to take time to think.

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