We speak a lot about KD/KS. If you’re curious about how knowledge development and knowledge sharing link together in ways we might not usually think about, take a look at Jonah Lehrer’s “GroupThink: The brainstorming myth” in the current (January 30) issue of The New Yorker.
While I’m not sure I agree with Lehrer’s basic premise that brainstorming doesn’t work (isn’t brainstorming a pretty basic tool in the KD/KS toolbox?), I do agree with his ideas about the value of chance encounters in knowledge sharing. His examples are terrific, and he makes it clear that when a space/building/environment is open and its structure suggests a more free-form version of knowledge exchange, good things happen. My favorite is his description of M.I.T.’s famous Building 20, which is almost a textbook example of what can happen when people wandering about run into each other and talk about what they’re doing.
Lehrer also gives due credit to a Jane Jacobs’ “knowledge spillovers,” the idea that what Lehrer calls “incidental conversations” produce more innovation than brainstorming sessions planned in advance.
Eleven years ago, Gerald A. Carlino wrote a useful and very readable article citing Jacobs’ 1969 theory (among others). Called Knowledge Spillovers: Cities’ Role in the New Economy, the article was published in The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s Business Review (that’s the bank’s quarterly aimed at readers with a general interest in economics). Carlino’s April 2001 article also offers strong evidence of the success of knowledge spillovers in facilitating idea exchange, creative, and innovation.
Two good essays, and both Lehrer and Carlino provide a useful connection for those of us focusing on KD/KS. It’s a new and slightly different slant for us as we manage the KD/KS process.