posted 28 Jan 2008 in Volume 11 Issue 5
The Knowledge - Charles Savage and Elisabeth Sundrum
Too often the ruts of routine are so deep we cannot peer over the side and see the possibilities.
That’s what Charles Savage once said of his early years as a native of
“I was born and raised on
But from seemingly lost opportunities like that, Savage has never really looked back, except as an actuary looks back to see the future. Savage’s journey to other parts of the world led him into the world of knowledge enterprise, one of dozens of early knowledge management (KM) thought leaders spawned by the creative environment of the former Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC).
Savage’s personal journey seems to have reached its peak in
Some may remember Savage from a few years back when he was coining and promoting the word 'knowledging’. A majority of his colleagues resisted with polite repartee.
But it was a serious discussion, as all are when Savage is involved. He deeply believes – then and now – that one of KM’s problems is that knowledge is still perceived as a ?thing’, an inactive noun. In his mind, KM means bringing knowledge to life, applying it to create, real value – knowledging.
It is true, of course, that in the early days of KM, the emphasis seemed to be on knowledge itself, capturing it, codifying it, transforming it from tacit to explicit, transforming it from personal to corporate asset. To Savage, that was a result of an outmoded Industrial Age mindset that accounted only for an organisation’s physical possessions. Innovation, he believes, drives the knowledge economy.
Savage was among the first to see beyond... beyond the industrial, technological and knowledge ages, to the era of the knowledge economy, in which knowledge would be transformed into an active verb whether or not the word would be coined.
Academic, you think? Not at all. It was and still is Savage’s very practical view of the future.
He consults and speaks widely in the
His book, Fifth Generation Management, has been widely acclaimed and translated into Japanese and Korean. Tom Peters named it his business book of 1991. A revised edition, subtitled Co-Creating through Virtual Enterprising, Dynamic Teaming and Knowledge Networking, is also available in English, German and Portuguese.
He has developed an 'executive discoveryshop’ model as a way to tap and team the creative capabilities of professionals within and between companies. This is particularly important as web services (XML, and so on) evolve, making 'plug-n-partnering’™ possible. In particular, he focuses on helping companies make the shift from the steep hierarchies of the industrial era to flatter network organisations based on dynamic teaming and virtual enterprising in the knowledge era. His clients include ABB, CIBC, Digital, Dow, Electrolux, Hyatt, Intel, ITT, Martin Marietta and Siemens.
Along the way, between Maui and Munich, Charles has worked as a vice president of Gray Judson, a management-consulting firm in Boston; a principle in the D. Appleton Co., Manhattan Beach, California, where he pioneered the human side of computer integrated manufacturing; and, as director at the Boston office of the Scandinavian Institutes of Administrative Research (SIAR). He has been active in the Computer and Automated Systems Association of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (CASA/SME) where he served many years on the Board of Advisors and headed its Technical Forum.
Sundrum has a broad, real-world view of business, having negotiated international telecommunications contracts, established joint-venture companies in Asia and
As CEO, she inherited a company with a cost structure so bloated she asked the vice president of human resources if he was ready to lay off managers and workers he had so carefully hired. However, she was able to reduce costs by almost 50 per cent while increasing productivity and market outreach. Most significant, she did it without laying off one employee.
When first exposed to the deep and significant work of Systems Thinking and Human Values of Professor Dr. Brian Hall and Dr. Benjamin Tonna, Values Technology, USA, she realised she had found kindred spirits.
“What is inside ourselves, our values, our attitudes and our mindsets either open horizons of the possible, or keep us uncomfortably confined in our little boxes on the organisational chart,” says Sundrum. “Better human interactions help us share existing knowledge and create new knowledge more efficiently and effectively.”
Sundrum has quickly realised that executives really do want to reflect upon those things that give their own lives meaning and purpose. Although they ?play the game’, she says, some would much rather be free to be themselves in ways that they can authentically and freely draw on their knowledge and feelings.
“The shift to authentic and honest interaction is so very critical as our companies begin to move from stiff hierarchies to more open and dynamic organisations, built upon more trust and respect for one another’s competencies. What with the development of knowledge networking, learning organisations, knowledge management, communities of practice, and collaborative technologies, the business landscape is dramatically redefining itself. But these changes will not stick if executives, managers and employees are not able to sort out and live by the values that enable active learning and authentic collaboration.”
In addition to having started her own company, eCultureTeam, Elisabeth has been actively coaching executives, mentoring masters and doctoral students, writing and speaking internationally.
She is engaged in a number of projects involving executive mentoring and coaching, knowledge-leadership development, knowledge networking and cultural-assessment efforts. All are designed to increase organisational trust, learning, collaboration and authentic interaction. Elisabeth Sundrum has a Bachelor in Business Administration, a Bachelor in International Management, a Masters in Social Science and a Multiple-Subject Credential in Educational Psychology and Learning Theory.
Charles Savage has a BA from