Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Diversity and Homogeneity (Part 1)

An article in The Guardian (24th Feb 04) "Discomfort of strangers" by David Goodheart made me think back to my comment on weak ties, but applied to the “What’s in it for me?” issue in knowledge-altruism in organizations. Goodheart calls it the "Progressive dilemma"

Goodheart quotes David Willetts (a politician) "The basis on which you can extract large sums of money in tax and pay it out in benefits is that most people think the recipients are people like themselves, facing difficulties that they themselves might face. If values become more diverse, if lifestyles become more differentiated, then it becomes difficult to sustain the legitimacy of a universal risk-pooling welfare state. People ask "why should I pay for them when they're doing things that I wouldn't do?". This is America versus Sweden... Progressives want diversity, but they thereby undermine part of the moral consensus on which a large welfare state rests."

Now replace 'tax' and ‘welfare’ with "Knowledge sharing" and state with "organisation" and you have the 'codification' strategy where the 'state' acts as knowledge broker. The implication is that if your company lacks strong common VALUES or you're deliberately encouraging people diversity (different from knowledge diversity, which is fine) then don't try to create things like knowledge pools. If you really need them at this time, implement 'state subsidy' where you ease the tax burden by assigning dedicated knowledge officers to make helping easier.

The alternative to state-controlled welfare is individual charity. This is where 1:1 brokering comes in - both social networking and expert location techniques factor out the state by connecting individuals: reducing the "people like me" equation to "person like me" so its easier to trigger a sense of individual social obligation. In plain English: most people will help you if you ask them directly.

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