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Can You Respond to a Lady with a Duck? Part 1

Posted by Phil Green on 3/22/2016
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If you have been following the developments, dreams, and travails in the quest to build a self-driving car, you may have heard the story about the lady with a duck. I think this story has great applicability as we build our knowledge management systems and information centers.

At first glance, the self-driving car is relatively straightforward. Take a basic car, add a bit of radar here, add a computer (with a basic understanding of the rules of the road) there, and Voila! You have yourself a self-driving car. The problem is - what happens when the unexpected happens? This brings us to the lady with a duck.

Surprise! Unanticipated complexity

When Google was testing its self-driving car, one day it turned a corner and there in the middle of the road was: a lady in a wheelchair chasing a duck. Luckily the car was able to stop and wait for the road to clear - but what if that isn’t an option? What if the car has to choose between hitting the lady or the duck? Or just imagine that the car, sensing the dilemma, puts you in control and forces you to make the decision. What if the decision wasn’t between a lady and a duck but a lady and a baby carriage? You might just scream “How did this machine put me into this awful situation?”  The self-driving car suddenly doesn’t look so simple anymore - it clearly needs to be a lot smarter, and building one becomes a lot more complex.

Maybe the same thing is happening in your information center or with your KM tools:

  • Are you building an information/knowledge strategy which assumes the world is predictable?
  • Are your KM and information tools straitjackets, automating normal and predictable information activities, but at the same time locking you into workflows that make you less responsive in an emergency?

Or are your information tools more like yoga pants, giving you the flexibility and confidence to respond to new situations and crises?

As you build your information hub or knowledge center think about the following:

If a major industry, market or company event occurred tomorrow, and you were expected to help your organization understand, analyze and respond, would you be ready?

In my next post on this topic I’ll discuss three areas you should focus on to ensure the answer to the above question is “yes!”

Topics: Knowledge Management, Information Management