Why harness knowledge?

Anyone who has worked with me for any length of time knows this quote is bound to come up in my coaching when we speak of Kuleana, the Hawaiian value of personal responsibility:

“An individual without information cannot take responsibility; an individual who is given information cannot help but take responsibility.” —Jan Carlzon, former head of Scandinavian Airline Systems.

I saw it again this morning as the Fast Company First Impression for the day, linking back to a great 1996 article from their archives on knowledge as a company asset.

Take a look at the full article, it’s worth your study. It’s a story about how a company was transformed by one leader’s vision to harness the “real power” of knowledge, because as he explains, “If you can’t maximize the power of the individual, you haven’t done anything.”

The best part of Bob Buckman’s story of visionary leadership is this: no matter how substantial your wealth of knowledge, knowledge “is not an end result in itself.” You need to harness it to “effectively engage with the customer.” Buckman’s challenge is one every manager must accept.

“We have to be so tuned into our customers that we anticipate what they need,” says Buckman. “If an employee is not effectively engaged with the customer, why are they employed?”

A postscript: the FC article was written in 1996—how is Buckman doing with their knowledge vision today? Take a look here, the Buckman Laboratories website for Knowledge Management.