Sex and Love and Knowledge Management

Last night, on the plane to Kuala Lumpur, I watched a TED Talk video of the incomparable Helen Fisher (on my iPod). She was talking about the biology of romantic love. In the video she describes three basic brain systems relating to love: Sexual Desire, Romantic Love, and Attachment. Here’s her summary of the evolutionary impact of each:

“The sex drive evolved to get you out there looking for a whole range of partners… romantic love evolved to enable you to focus your mating energy on just one individual at a time thereby conserving mating time and energy, and I think that attachment, the third brain system, evolved to enable you to tolerate this human being at least long enough to raise a child together as a team.”

Today I was in a KM workshop and was thinking that KM implementations seem to fall into roughly two types: initiatives that revolve around analytically-derived KM Frameworks that are imported to an organisation, and that the organisation seeks to conform to – or implement elements of. That’s KM. And the second type is the initiative that seeks to build an organic KM strategy based on the organisation’s own self-understanding as a knowledge-using organisation, and a clear sense of its business goals and priorities. That’s the kind of KM approach that we advocate, and we do so because we think it’s the one that is most likely to get the organisation motivated. But what’s wrong with the Framework approach?

Thinking in one of those bizarre cross-wire moments, it suddenly struck me that KM Frameworks work very much like “attachment-love” mechanisms. They are the long term, failure-tolerant mechanisms that sustain the KM energy of an organisation. The organic KM strategy-building approach is much more like romantic love – it’s the mechanism that drives you to create an attachment, by getting you to focus on just a few things (and in truth probably over-value them for a time) – but for just long enough to allow an attachment to develop. So that fits my hunch and observation that Framework-based initiatives can drift very easily. The organisation finds itself in an arranged marriage without having fallen in love first (which doesn’t always fail, but isn’t ideal).

What I haven’t quite figured out is what the equivalent of Desire is in this theory of KM (though I have spoken about Lust here). Any ideas, anyone?

3 Comments so far

Matt Moore

Patrick - Love the Helen Fisher talk. It may be there or elsewhere but she has a great story about 2 grad students, a tuk-tuk driver & the risks of trying to engineer romance.

So the attachment system also emerges between parents & children. I think your association between attachment & structure is a good one. Attachment also implies dependency - and some form of hierarchy.

Romantic love is finite - may be 2 years tops. Then the chemicals wear off and you have to look at what you have left.

Lust is that immediate attraction to someone. So KM lust would be a fixation on one particular tool or technique - be they SNA, CoPs, Taxonomies. It is over quicker and is even less rational than romantic love. And the only thing more dangerous than giving in to it is to deny its existence altogether.

Posted on September 04, 2007 at 05:15 AM | Comment permalink

Patrick Lambe

Yes, the tuk-tuk driver story is in this video smile

You may be right about the Lust thing, I need to think about that a bit more…

Posted on September 04, 2007 at 06:18 AM | Comment permalink

Paolina Martin

Desire is the “intolerable neural itch” for the quick fix, get-it-over-and- done-with, dopamine-inducing KM systems. Problem is without sufficient precaution, it can lead to unethical abortions.

Posted on September 04, 2007 at 01:37 PM | Comment permalink

Page 1 of 1 pages

Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.

Comment Guidelines: Basic XHTML is allowed (<strong>, <em>, <a>) Line breaks and paragraphs are automatically generated. URLs are automatically converted into links.