Does KM Have a Place for Fate?

Over the weekend several events happened that made me realise our limitations in knowledge management. Some things we can never know for sure and recently I had posted something about humility and I think in our profession, that is something we need to have. I think we can only help people know things up to a point and the rest is really “fate”. KM can certainly help us, and perhaps most of the way but it can’t help us all the way.

I spent a weekend in Bali, just a 3 day-2 night getaway. Our holiday package included a half-day tour which our guide said we could do in the morning or afternoon. He proudly listed all the places we would visit in that half day and what we could do. We opted for an afternoon tour and started out at 3 p.m. After the visit to a supposedly famous art gallery and parting with a somewhat significant amount for 2 beautiful paintings by the so-called “Master” (we could only hope it was true), we changed the plan and decided to skip all the remaining places. They were craft-making sites and we had seen these before. My husband suggested dinner at Jimbaran Bay. I shuddered at that name. I was hesitant, at first, as I remembered it being one of the 2 bomb-blasts places “by the you know who” (shall refrain from mentioning their name in case search engines they are using picks this up!). I realised that it was a Saturday and the place would probably be crowded that evening. Would it be likely that there would be a bomb-blast already masterminded for that evening at Jimbaran Bay? Would this sudden decision we made cost us our lives? What if we had stuck to the plan? What if it was safer to have changed the plan? I did not know and I could not know. No amount of KM (within my capacity at that point in time) could help me with that decision. I suddenly remembered how I read about this guy who had left his home that Sep 11 NY morning with two different shoes on each foot. He decided to stop by a shoe shop to get a new pair before going in to work, which meant he was delayed from the office. That mistake saved his life.

And then there was the issue of the rattan tissue box holder. At a shop in Bali, I spotted it and liked how intricately the rattan was weaved. I realised however that the height of the rattan box may be too short for the type of tissue boxes we typically buy back home. And so I picked another one which was deeper and cost just a little more. The girl who atended to me, after taking my money walked to the back of the shop to get a plastic bag to put it in and to get my change. Naturally I checked my change when she handed it to me. When I got home after the trip and unpacked my stuff, I realised she had switched the tissue box to the shallower, cheaper one. It was such a horrible feeling when I took it out from the bag. I had to restrain myself from expressing all the possible swear words in my head (I’m too much of a human). It was not the money but the feeling of being cheated, of havcing trusted her, of not seeing what else could possibly have gone wrong (i.e. apart from getting less change back). And it’s not like I could go back the next morning to sort the situation out. That said, I must qualify that she is probably the minority of the Balinese people. Everyone else we met were fair and peaceloving people. We even had a 20% discount from the brochure listed price for a spa treatment because we were recommended by the tour guide. They did not have to tell us about the discount but they did. So it seems like knowing what could have gone wrong is one thing but knowing in time is the challenge. How do we know when “in time” is when it is relative to an unknown future? Would it have been better to have known “just in case” rather than to know “just in time”?

I had a weird encounter at a 24-hour supermarket early hours of this morning. Caught in an awkward situation, having correctly read the signs before me and knowing the layout of the supermarket seemed to have helped me from facing what could have been a life and death situation. Thankfully, I avoided having to find out.

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