posted 17 Dec 2007 in Volume 11 Issue 4
The Knowledge - Alex and David Bennet
“One evening in 1996, as David and I walked through the three-acre park we were building behind our home in Virginia, US, we settled down on a swing overlooking a small brook winding its way through the oranges and reds of a vibrant fall. As we moved the swing back and forth in the cooling air I asked David, ‘What do you want to do with the rest of your life?’ While we were relatively newlyweds, we were also of the age where most people are looking toward retirement, so the question was pertinent in several ways.”
David answered: “
Little bit of history
Alex Bennet is the former chief knowledge officer and deputy chief information officer for enterprise integration of the U.S. Department of the Navy (DON), the first government organisation to receive the prized MAKE (Most Admired Knowledge Enterprise) Award.
She also served as the co-chair of the Federal Knowledge Management Working Group for several years before ‘retiring’ from the Federal Sector in early 2003. While with DON she lived KM, not only leading KM implementation for the Department, but writing and publishing articles, developing and distributing virtual toolkits, editing three books, and presenting and speaking around the world.
While her work with the DON has been the subject of a number of articles and case studies.
The quest for knowledge
In the spring of 2003 Alex and David co-authored their first book together, Organizational Survival in the
The Intelligent Complex Adaptive System (ICAS) concept demanded a relook at traditional organisational structures, culture, strategy and leadership. It also required new ways of thinking and perceiving, what the Bennets describe as integrative competencies for knowledge workers, including such things as ‘complexity thinking’, ‘relationship network management’ and ‘knowing’. The ICAS book was ahead of its time, but it set the Bennets on a course of study and learning that is challenging and rewarding. For example, articles that have emerged along the way include context as the shared knowledge enigma; learning as associative patterning; hierarchy as a learning platform; the decision-making process for complex situations in a complex environment; and the knowledge and knowing of spiritual learning.
After working on and off for several years with The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Alex worked with David to develop another book, Knowledge Mobilization in the Social Sciences and Humanities: Moving from Research to Action was published in 2007 by MQI Press.
Ever the change agent, the book was built on the same concepts it promotes. For example, embracing the concept of collaborative advantage. The initial draft of the book was given freely to participants in the Knowledge Impact on Society program sponsored by SSHRC, and Alex and David invited those participants to join them in creating this book. The copyright on the book reads “In the spirit of collaborative advantage, with attribution, any part of this book may be copied and distributed freely.” As Alex explains, “These ideas all belong to the world. We believe that knowledge as a verb has the capacity to make the world a better place. You’ve got to keep it moving.”
The quest for consciousness
As Alex completed her tour with the DON, she ran across some work supported by the CIA and US Army on remote viewing. Intrigued, she went to The Monroe Institute shortly after retiring, a trip that proved the start of her inner journey using hemispheric synchronisation, the use of sound coupled with a binaural beat to bring both hemispheres of the brain into unison. This results in a physiologically reduced state of arousal while maintaining conscious awareness, thereby providing a doorway into the unconscious. “It would be difficult to explain all that each of us can learn from ourselves,” Alex reflects. “But it is an incredible journey, and every day I am learning more about what it is to be human and the connections we all have with ourselves, each other and our world.”
Alex shares her journey using hemispheric synchronisation freely, describing herself as a knowledge-seeker in both external and internal realities. David chimes in with a discussion of the power of the unconscious from the scientific perspective and how he has been able to engage lucid dreaming to provide greater access to, and use of his unconscious.
The quest for meaning
Engaging fully in knowledge work and the exploration of the unconscious inevitably brings you face-to-face with the larger issues of purpose and meaning. Alex had discovered that the values held by the KM thought leaders she interviewed for the dissertation for her PhD in Human and Organisational Systems, were closely connected with the KM field. Committed to the large potential offered by this field, the Bennets began to explore knowledge in terms of organisational value systems, writing story after story to explore the process of internalisation, that is, moving from awareness to understanding to belief to feeling good to accepting ownership to empowerment to taking action.
Despite being the foundational question that everyone owns and asks at some point in their lives, the search for meaning is rarely (if ever) answered, either individually or collectively. At Mountain Quest the search for meaning is the search for understanding, compassion and the building of a better future for all living things... and hopefully it includes the search for wisdom.
The one regret Alex expresses is that she waited so late in her life to fully embrace this journey. Then she reflects on that and adds, “But maybe I always have been on this journey, only coming at it from other directions!”
While the retreat centre is beginning to attract more groups, what has amazed the Bennets is their own shift in how they look at Mountain Quest. “People come from around the world, and again and again diverse people are drawn to the library, talking late into the night about small and large issues. Everyone seems to be aware that the world is shifting, but what does that mean? These conversations – knowledge moments – are indeed a large part of why we’re here.”
But the dream is not yet complete. Alex sighs, “While the challenges of building the retreat centre of our dreams have been many, so far they have been surmountable, and our hopes stay high to bring the whole dream into reality. That is, a dream of a self-sustaining, not-for-profit research and retreat centre that moves into a complex, uncertain and changing future providing a beacon of light and learning for those who are ready to embrace it. Is this possible? We don’t know.” ?
1 Elsevier, 2004