Knowledge Communities and Magical Thinking

From Yigal Chamish, a great, grounded story of a community of practice in full swing. The photos make all the difference. The post was in response to a story by Matt Simpson about “a manager who thought he could create a community” by setting up a collaboration space, nominating members and selecting a community manager (which alerted me to Matt’s great blog and podcast series).

Matt’s example is what I called in Canberra last week, the all-too ubiquitous use of “magical thinking” in KM, the belief you can create desired effects by deploying ritual activities and incantations, combined with an intense lack of curiosity about the causal relationships between your actions and the supposed results. I’ve been reading Eva Gillies abridgement of Evans-Pritchard on Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic Among the Azande, and the parallels in thought styles leap out at me. It is this lack of curiosity that is the danger, and while I’m a staunch believer in the value of complexity theory for sensemaking in social interventions such as KM, there is a risk that the “complexity” mantra provides yet another layer of “magical thinking” to keep our enquiring intellects at bay.

2 Comments so far

Awie Foong

Don’t blame only the KM You find such thinking in every field of practice! Curiosity is expensive, although the lack of it may eventually cost more!

Posted on October 22, 2009 at 09:20 AM | Comment permalink

I’d like to second your sentiments. I wonder how much of the business world runs on magical thinking and a little bit of luck. A staggering proportion I suspect if recent events in the financial markets are representative of business at large.

Posted on October 22, 2009 at 09:59 AM | Comment permalink

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