When I was dividing up the articles required for this class, three articles stood out to me as interrelated and extremely interesting. The first of the articles that stood out to me was Kumar and Chakrabarti’s³ article about the Challenger disaster. I was not alive when the Challenger disaster happened but I grew up hearing about it. I remember reading a story where the main character went back in time and witnessed a group of people seeing the disaster happen for the first time. This person knew what was going to happen and had known for decades by that point. However, witnessing this group react and be horrified for the first time really put into perspective for the main character how large and truly life changing this event was. Kumar and Chakrabarti’s article made clear the reality of the Challenger disaster through the managerial decisions made that day.
I read Abigail’s blog post before I had read the article and I commented on her post about how “it seem[ed] like the managers didn’t realize the importance of the information because they didn’t have the right knowledge to understand it.” After actually reading the article, I’m not that far off.
In other words, even though the managers had the very information in their hands that could have helped them avert failure; they failed to ‘see’ its relevance to their decision to launch. (pg. 938)
This quote just makes me sad. In very rare cases, I don’t like being proven right. This is one of them. Like I commented on Abigail’s post, “that makes a lot of sense why there can be issues when managers are just managers but don’t have the organizational knowledge to be a true part of the organization. I feel like there should be a checks and balance in place”. Sadly, it seems the managers weren’t making a bad decision with intent to cause harm but just because they didn’t know enough to understand the information presented to them in order to make a fully informed decision. The managers were ignorant; they had the information but not the education or knowledge. Being blind due to ignorance not lack of awareness should never happen.
The second article I though relevant due to another real world example being used to discuss knowledge management was Chua’s¹ article about Katrina and Rita. I was alive during these disasters but was barely 15 years old. Reading about Katrina and Rita from an academic and management perspective was extremely fascinating since I can remember the news reporting on so many of the issues. After reading this article I was startled by the contrast of the report. In the Challenger disaster, the managers had the information but didn’t ‘see’ the importance of it due to not having enough knowledge. In the Katrina disaster, the managers had the information but did not react in a timely manner. Chua’s whole paper smacked of gross negligence on the part of the government and sickened me. Although if you want to make a analogy – engineers : managers :: NHC : US government (although at least the managers tried…).
The last article was Ibrahim and Allen’s² article about the oil industry. So, like a lot of articles I have to read, I didn’t really get what was going on in this one. They spoke and wrote very convolutedly in my opinion. However, the one part that made the most sense and stood out to me was the talk of trust. They wrote about how “the lack of trust could be a more crucial factor than the collapse of sense making in the first place”. It seemed a lot like when you hear about people’s lives being saved because they acted on instinct. If the emergency response personnel’s instinct is to not trust their superiors, then there is a breakdown in communication and information sharing.
In conclusion, this week’s reading educated me on not just knowledge management, but events that actually happened in history… and also made me sad.
Words I Had to Look Up
Bounded Awareness: When decision makers overlook relevant and readily available information and take a decision that is either suboptimal or entirely erroneous³.
Ignorance: lack of knowledge, information, or education; the state of being ignorant (Source).
Instinct: An instinct is something you don’t need to learn — it happens naturally, without you even thinking about it. An inborn pattern of behavior often responsive to specific stimuli (Source).
¹ Chua, A. Y. K. (2007). A tale of two hurricanes: Comparing katrina and
rita through a knowledge management perspective. Journal of the
American Society for Information Science and Technology,
² Ibrahim, N. H. and Allen, D. (2012). Information sharing and trust
during major incidents: Findings from the oil industry. J Am Soc Inf Sci
³ Kumar, A. and Chakrabarti, A. (2012). Bounded awareness and tacit
knowledge: revisiting challenger disaster. Journal of Knowledge
6 thoughts on “Real Life Knowledge Management”
More of the story: Bob Ebeling just past away — he tried to prevent the launch:
I was in 7th grade and living in Houston when the Challenger exploded. We were in gym when it happened. We were called to our home rooms. Teachers pulled in TV sets and we watched what happened. It was a very sad day.
That’s sad. I can’t imagine the guilt Ebeling felt.
Your experience sounds a lot like my experience on 9/11. I was in 6th grade art and my teacher brought in a TV set even though he wasn’t supposed to. We didn’t really understand what was going on.
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It’s interesting how those things stay with you — like how the people in the generations before me recall JFK, RK, MLK assassinations, landing on the moon, etc. These are events, even the good ones, that help develop a shared identity.
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I remember the shame and helplessness I felt in the aftermath of Katrina. I truly hope that enough organizational learning has occurred to handle future events of that magnitude.
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The one good thing about disasters is that people can do remarkable things to support one another during difficult times.