Archive for the 'Culture' Category

Challenging how knowledge is created

Keith June 12th, 2007

I went to a seminar about wikis organised by education.au a while ago (27 April), where Jimmy Wales, the “father” of Wikipedia, presented.  Another key speaker was Mark Pesce.  It was a great learning experience. 

We heard a lot about Wikipedia (a non-profit organisation), and Jimmy’s other organisation, Wikia, which provides wiki platforms on a for-profit basis.

One important learning from Jimmy’s experience is that it is possible to set up a sustainable wiki with as few as 5 to 10 dedicated people.  There is even one case of a successful wiki started by a single (very) dedicated person.  Jimmy referred to Wiki as a “return to folk culture”.  It is all about a group of individuals each doing their own bit.

It’s all about accountability, not gate-keeping.  Anybody can edit – the default position is to trust people.  This has also been my experience with our iStore here at Telstra over the last seven years – trust people to share their knowledge openly and easily, and in the vast majority of cases, your trust will be honoured.  The more you “lock up” your knowledge sharing with controls, the less likely it is that people will share.

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Telling stories

Keith January 17th, 2007

The original title at the top of this blog was: “It’d take a lot of it to make a man laugh.”  Why?  Of course, there is a story behind it… 

I heard it from my father many years ago, when I was a child, living on a sheep station near the town of Birregurra in western Victoria.  He relayed this story from his boss – Charlie, the property owner - who was a participant.

It was 15 August 1945.  Everyone in the town was celebrating V-J day – victory over Japan, and the end of World War II.  People were driving up and down the main street, making lots of noise.  Most likely a fair amount of alcohol was also being consumed! A man named Mark Ward, in the transport business, was riding on the bonnet of one of his own trucks.  The driver stopped suddenly, catapulting his passenger forward.  As he slid forward, one leg caught on the front bumper of the car, resulting in a very nasty compound fracture.

When visiting him in hospital later, Charlie commented to Mark, “God, it must have hurt!”  Mark replied, “Well, it would take a bloody lot of it to make a man laugh!”  

This has always seemed to me to be a quintessential example of Australian humour.  Our traditional humour is black, self-deprecating and sarcastic.  Maybe this has been shaped by the harshness of our environment or by the convict origin of European Australia just over 200 years ago.  It is a strong part of our culture.  This is a country where our most holy national holiday (ANZAC Day) is a celebration of a famous military defeat (at Gallipoli).

Stories can convey so much information, often in a few words.  In this example, a brief narrative can say so much more about culture than reams of written analysis.

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