Schlagwort-Archive: Knowledge

More attention on the personal contribution

The larger an organization, the more it is built upon the division of labor. Tasks are distributed not only horizontally from one function to another but also vertically – employees and leaders of teams, departments, divisions, businesses unit, and corporations. As in a snowball system, superiors consider the performances of all subordinates as its share of the whole. They infer the rationale for paying itself up to 273 times the average salary. But without considering that every role, no matter how small, has a decisive share in the overall result. Let us remember the story of the lost nail.

A blacksmith forgot a nail while shoeing a horse, causing a horseshoe to fall off, by which the horse’s leg broke and threw off the riding messenger, who was thus unable to deliver the message, causing the army to suffer defeat and ultimately losing the war and due to it the kingdom.

And only because the blacksmith forgot a nail. It was the blacksmith’s contribution that had unforeseen consequences.

People are not machines. This effectuates that the individual contributions turn out differently. These performances are influenced by their biography, traits, passions, and daily conditions. Further differences result from the respective circumstances, i.e., the time, speed, focus, result, quality, outcomes, diligence, comprehensiveness, and perseverance. However, the basis is the individual part built on practical experience, existing knowledge, commitment, and appreciation by superiors and colleagues.

  • Practical experience
    The most important is the practical experience, i.e., insights acquired through the consistent routine (regular application of obtained findings, mental models, and experiences through Learning-by-doing). If we see something new, we memorize only 20% – if we hear it, 30%; if we see and hear, 50%; if we see and hear and talk, 70%; and if we do it, 90%. Practical exercises create in active training or learning-on-the-job, informal learning in vocational weekdays, agile skills in the long term. Unlike theoretical training, personal application anchors skills for long-term recall. Yet, companies cannot assess these experiences, as their effectiveness only becomes apparent later in action.
  • Certified knowledge
    Originally, monastic and cathedral schools and later the early universities, such as Bologna, Oxford, Heidelberg, and Harvard, had a holistic approach, similar to vocational apprenticeship – young people studied, that is, observe, investigate, and engage in-depth with the world. After six years of research and learning, they attained the lowest degree, the baccalaureate. After another twelve years, they earned the magister degree or doctorate – and this with an average life expectancy of 32 years. This required various oaths as well as a private and a public exam. Today, a study is more like a continuation of schooling and predominantly limited to small areas of knowledge – although interdisciplinary courses, such as cognitive science, systems theory, or psycholinguistics, are making the boundaries between faculties more permeable. The purpose is primarily to confirm temporary knowledge, i.e., to recall a specific knowledge, at one point in time as completely as possible. In addition, the speed by which new knowledge and standards emerge has led to institutions offering training and grant certifications. In contrast to practical experience, theoretical training provides the content of a knowledge area and confirms, through fitting exams, that students have memorized a particular material. This is practical for companies, as they receive the final certificates, „objective“ proof of the skills for selecting employees.
  • Decisive commitment
    Regardless of the experience and knowledge available, the personal contribution is determined by the commitment of individuals. Attitudes toward the company drive the engagement and are composed of emotional attachment, acceptance of the corporate governance, and perceived advantages. Even with the best conditions, indifferent personalities deliver worse results than committed ones with less qualification. This explains the efforts made to bind the low-commitment participants more closely to the company with coaching, team building, and participation in decision-making. For a company, this means, above all, winning leaders for the human image of Theory Y or even experimenting with entirely new work models to make it easier for the workforce to commit and thus deliver better results.
  • Appreciated performances
    The well-being of the members of a company results from respectful interaction with each other. In contrast, negative feedback, unfairness, and unequal treatment damage the satisfaction and self-esteem of ALL involved people. Especially micromanagers, who disempower employees by interfering in the smallest details, changing results, and not developing appreciation undermine commitment. As a result, those who actually work, leave the fulfillment of the task to these supervisors, who feel affirmed by the growing number of errors that they have to do everything by themselves – a vicious circle (see also Theory X). For companies, this demands developing an appropriate mindset (e.g., Theory Y). In the future, processes that follow a strict workflow will be shifted into IT. For the leaders remain the „human“ tasks to serve the committed employees (Servant Leadership).

Bottom line: The personal contribution of the employees results from their doing, i.e., the ideas, actions, and results. This is supported by relevant experiences, acquired knowledge, and the desire to contribute maximally. When the performers can also expect that their part of the whole is appreciated, you have the best conditions to deliver top results. Since people are not programmable entities, who, once they are provided with business processes, rules and assignments, always function the same way, we need to put more attention on their actual contributions. This requires leaders who follow the activities mindfully. The smaller the company, the greater the likelihood that there is not enough time to take care of leadership skills. Therefore, these companies need to start developing a contemporary mindset. For example, every corporate member must develop entrepreneurship, encouraging followers of Theory Y and eliminating those of Theory X. The personal contribution of EVERYONE is the difference that makes the difference.

What we can know

What we can know was already a concern of Socrates according to Plato “I know that I do not know (actually: I know as a non-knower – οἶδα οὐκ εἰδώς, oîda ouk eidōs)? Heinrich von Pierer also had his view on his company’s knowledge: If Siemens knew what Siemens knows. Despite all attention, it is overlooked that knowledge only becomes tangible indirectly through appropriate media (paper, electronic media, and channels). It is not an exchange of knowledge that takes place but copying of data. The sender does not let go of its knowledge but instead offers distorted formulations through filters (see Meta model of language). It is the receiver who interprets the data. The continuous evolution of our knowledge reinforces the distortions. What is true today may be false tomorrow. In 2017, Kellyanne Conway drew attention in the right direction by talking about alternative facts. Niklas Luhmann described that information, communication, and understanding are contingent occurrences in the last century, i.e., a statement is neither necessary nor impossible and can be one way or another. What can we still know today with this insight?

Suppose we disregard for a moment the sender’s intentions and look at the content, the knowledge. In that case, there remain a few questions that must be clarified in advance to be able to criticize each other: What is knowing? How is it different from not knowing? The following points provide food for thought.

  • Sign – Data – Information – Knowledge – Wisdom
    Since the accelerated processing of data with IT, we face the question: What is information? After the millennium turn, knowledge management has answered the query with the knowledge pyramid (see also meme units). On the lowest level, there are the signs (icons, pictures, light or sound signals), which can be represented on the next level as data (e.g., 101010). As soon as the data is on the level above in a context of meaning, information (e.g., 42) results. Information accumulated over time then networks into knowledge on the next layer (e.g., the ultimate answer to the question of life, the universe, and everything) that then becomes wisdom at the top (e.g., science fiction provides exciting ideas). There are no interfaces to assess the top three levels by factual means. Nobody can look into the head of another.
  • Seeing is believing – is knowing?
    In the pre-Internet era, the fourth estate, the media, besides the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, controlled interpretations of circumstances. Things written in black and white, which existed as a photo or film, and were accepted as a given. In the absence of opinions expressed by other eyewitnesses, no doubts arose. Today, everyone has a cell phone, access to social media, and even their website. This makes them a publisher with global reach – without universally accepted values and in a legal vacuum only with national regulations that are difficult to enforce. Take Wikipedia as an example, that only publishes articles relevant to an encyclopedia, provably published elsewhere, and compiled by the author. This excludes undocumented knowledge. Thus, we understand only half.
  • Is oral tradition knowledge?
    The writing was invented just over 7000 years ago. Before that, knowledge was transferred for millennia by oral tradition. In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury imagined even a bookless future in which the classics of world literature were again passed on orally. This spoken word, for example, would not find its way into Wikipedia. To limit our knowledge to data that is on any physical carrier would let us become stultified. The truth would be left to the authors, photographers, filmmakers, and other archivers without publication. Only when thoughts are externalized into a medium, they will become knowledge. Thus, the world does not know what the world knows.
  • Personal explanations
    Knowledge is formed exclusively in the mind of the observer. The personal field, the learned models of thinking, experiences made over time, and unconscious feelings are decisive for the respective interpretation. This leads to different facts like the above interpretation of Douglas Adams, or the other reading of Lewis Carroll, namely any signification, show. It was new for me that 42 is also the second pseudo-perfect number. And who knows that it is Frank’s current age. Since the receiver determines the meaning, the sender’s intent gets lost because it cannot be transmitted. The world will have to endure willy-nilly with alternative facts.
  • Confirmed facts – if so, how many proofs
    The description of a situation depends on the standpoint. Different views automatically result in alternative realities that are coherent in themselves. Besides, observers standing close together will additionally agree to descriptions due to unconscious group pressure, although they may have made a different observation. Do many observers make a fact better? If so, how many must be there to be known? For the classical media, at least two concurring sources are enough to adopt a fact. Isolated observations do not enrich the knowledge of the world?
  • Knowledge gets crafted by science
    Knowledge is located in science. The various disciplines have expanded their echo chambers to such an extent that overarching approaches seek to integrate different pieces of knowledge. For example, when engineering incorporates knowledge from biology into the new field of bionics. The advantage of science comes from the extensive evidence gathered in laboratories or reality and published in studies. It becomes difficult with phenomena that cannot be measured, such as the effects of homeopathic compounds. The natural reaction of scientists to such black box effects is rejection because of the lack of detectability. Such (non-) knowledge’s proponents are disparaged as esotericism, mystics, sectarians, or conspiracy theorists. Do we exclude the wisdom of a shaman or Socrates from the world knowledge?
  • Only verity is knowledge
    Karl Popper dissolved the aberration that only confirmed facts are true with his falsification. The real truth is only obtained when a point is disproved. And how do we classify the broad field of literature? Is it knowledge if we know the personnel of the Human Comedy or the Steppenwolf? Are fictional stories true? Does an unusual perspective lead to special knowledge? Can this knowledge be questioned because the majority perceived it differently? In the end, all facts are remarkable and valid. All turn their attention to different aspects. Even statements, which falsify willfully, create knowledge (In this case, the why would be needed). Doesn’t world knowledge include everything?

Bottom line: The intangible nature of knowledge makes it difficult to classify. The different data formats do not give any information about where the knowledge comes from – except: out of the mind of a person. Do you understand the sentence? In Japanese: この文を理解していますか?; or in Arabic: هل تفهم هذه الجملة؟. However, we are open to all kinds of knowledge as soon as we see or hear it. However, what information we understand depends on us, on our wealth of experience. As group beings, we tend to follow the many – which explains the influx of conspiracy theorists. However, you should ask yourself whether a so-called conspiracy theory is not also knowledge. After all, we believe the results of scientists as well without being able to check them. Libraries are full of scientific papers describing our state of knowledge – but what is declared valid today may be outdated tomorrow. Even truth does not help us because everyone has its reality, which fits coherently into its concepts. What we can know is that many views cannot be reduced to one fact. It is much more critical to avoid holy wars because it lies in the nature of propositions that they could be different. We have to learn to deal with alternative facts instead of negating them categorically.