Saturday, August 09, 2008
The Dark Side of Knowledge Management
I was intrigued by the title because I'd just reviewed the Component Content Management Report, which by contrast is certainly about the bright side of content management. I also know Alter, and he's a clever guy (maybe even a bit of a "wise guy") who teaches at the University of San Francisco, across the bridge from Berkeley on the "West Bay."
This could have been a "tongue in cheek" article, but it's not. It is a brilliant analysis of dozens of news stories in which knowledge was suppressed, distorted, or misappropriated during creation, storage and retrieval, or distribution and presentation phases. Alter uses this "lifecycle x dark side goals" framework to organize the various tactics that he extracted from the news stories.
- For example, "distortion during knowledge creation" occurs when emergency rooms don't run blood-alcohol tests on patients thought to be intoxicated. Insurers can deny reimbursement to patients who are under the influence, so the emergency room doesn't want to have information that would prevent them from getting paid.
- "Suppression during knowledge creation" occurs when school districts put pressure on principals to minimize reported dropout rates.
- "Suppression during storage and retrieval" occurs when Morgan Stanley falsely claimed to have lost archived email messages that they were ordered to turn over in a lawsuit.
- "Distortion during distribution and presentation"occurs when government agencies produce pre-packaged "news stories" with government employees posing as reporters.
I won't go through all the categories in Alter's framework. But I note that many of the examples reveal a political perspective common in San Francisco (actors in the stories include John Bolton, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld), and I'm sure that there are people in red states who would argue that Alter's paper itself is an example of "knowledge distortion during presentation." I'll let you decide for yourself.