I’m not so sure, and perhaps the question is more than rhetorical.
It seems that wherever I travel, colleagues in other countries are fascinated – and a little frightened – by what’s happening in American politics. The much-talked-about polarization seems to be taking its toll not only in political campaigns in the United States, but is making people in other countries wonder about us, as a society and as a people.
What is happening? Most of the time, we Americans are quick to refer to the many fine qualities of democracy. Yet the simple virtues (I suppose we could call them) simply do not seem to be in place in the current election process. As a result we’re being perceived as a hypocritical people, perhaps even a little two-faced.
“What’s happened to respect for the other politicians?” I’m asked, along with: “Why is there so much lying, so much deceit?”
And we admit that it’s nothing new. American politics has always been a little rough, but now the personal attacks and the false information are causing many of our global colleagues to re-think their relationship with us.
Why are things worse this time around?
Could it have to do with knowledge development/knowledge sharing (KD/KS) in political organizations, specifically in the political parties? Knowledge might seem to be a bit of a reach here, since it’s really not knowledge that is being developed and shared. It’s simply content, information and news and statements that – as developed – are re-worked and re-phrased so that – in the sharing – they can be used to do harm, to prevent rather than strengthen the relationship between the politicians and the electorate.
As for myself, I’m not sure what the answers are, and I would like to have some guidance from readers. I see what people like Paul Krugman, Thomas Friedman, and others are writing and I usually agree with most of them, since I have the sense that their logic and their intentions are honorable.
But where is the other stuff coming from? When what can only be described as hate content is put forward as “the truth,” and we see people refusing to accept factual information and knowledge because they do not “trust” the sources, how do we convince them that it is to their advantage – and that of the rest of us – to listen to both sides of the story? Is it appropriate for us to re-focus KD/KS so that it connects – in some way – with excellence, with higher standards for sharing, and with questions about honestly and truth?
And is it simply a question of politics and KD/KS in politics? Is there something wrong with the overall way we manage and deal with knowledge? Do we need to go back to Step One and start all over again?
I’m waiting – a little anxiously, I admit – to see how we are going to deal with this.
John James O’Brien, CRM commented via the LinkedIn KM-Forum Group:
You bet. Over many years working in the area of knowledge, records and intellectual capital management, I have observed that there seems to be an inverse relationship between the availability of content and capacity of the average (and not so average) person to assess the quality of that content. Supposition and speculation are given equal weight with the reporting of fact. Hours are spent with commentators interviewing people only indirectly involved in events to ask for their thoughts on what might be happening. It’s absurd.
Living abroad has offered great insight into the game – but as a Canadian, I am reluctant to comment further on our neighbour’s antics. I may visit less often, but we’re still neighbours.
Nick Milton commented bia the LinkedIn KM-Forum Group:
I think the article answers its own question when it says “it’s really not knowledge that is being developed and shared. It’s simply content, information and news and statements”
Thanks to both John and Nick for those cogent comments. As I’ve discussed this face-to-face with friends over the past couple of days, I’ve had good feedback similar to Nick’s, that we don’t need to be concerned about it being a knowledge (or lack-of-knowledge) issue. It’s a social issue having to do with people bouncing content back and forth and not really changing anyone’s mind or adding (KD/KS) anything helpful to the discussion.
Janet Kaul says
I think we need to be worried about the fact that people are not challenging the content in any way. Knowledge is about bringing experience to information, but if you’re not starting with accurate information to begin with, adding the experience only brings prejudice and close-mindedness, and that is being displayed as “knowledge”, so yeah, worry. Knowledge is getting a bad rap.
Thanks, Janet. Appreciate your comment and couldn’t agree with you more.
And if you want the most-recent example in this area, read Tom Friedman’s column in today’s New York Times. My contention has always been that knowledge development and knowledge sharing are critical if society is going to work as it’s supposed to work, but I suppose we fall into the trap that shared knowledge is accurate and it really makes a difference when it isn’t.