About self-perception

An almost real story

Recently, I was sitting in in my new family doctor’s waiting room.

A copy of his license to practice was hanging at the wall, showing his full name. The name instantly reminded me of a former classmate, at those times, 20 years ago, a rather wiry and long-haired guy.

But when I met the doc, I immediately dismissed the thought. This well-fed, grey-haired man with his knobbly nose was far too old for haven been in my school class.

Nevertheless, after the examination I asked him, if he eventually visited the same school as I. “Yes”, he told me. So, I continued “Which year did you graduate from high-school?” He answered “1987! Why?” “Well, you have been in my class”, I replied. He attentively looked at me … finally asking: “And which subject did you teach?”


based on “Leicht verschätzt” by Peter Kottlorz


What are Trappers famous for?

zur deutschen VersionYou might have asked yourself already, why I selected “TrapperPhD” as my online nickname?

The story behind TrapperPhD …

To make a long story short … during my university time my nickname was “Trapper” (honestly spoken, one out of a couple). And after finishing my doctorate, “Trapper PhD” was a logical consecutive consequence … but also a tribute to “Trapper John, M.D.”, a famous TV series in the 80s of the last century (when I grew up, “those times long ago”).

Last not least, I like this name because I like the qualities, trappers stand for.

What trappers are famous for …

  • they are successfully using and sharing knowledge of at least two worlds
  • they make the best of slender resources and possibilities
  • they are pragmatic and often need to flexibly adapt to changing conditions
  • they are real businessmen (entrepreneurs) not just managers
  • they start well-founded changes only
  • they are lean for good reasons
  • they are results-driven
  • they do not give up, but also know when to stop … for them vitality management is essential
  • they are palmy in operating independent as well as part of a team
  • they love nature (OK, they have no choice, but take it as a romantic presumption)
  • they can make fire without an iPone app
  • they can communicate without a Blackberry
  • they make it to stay in touch with friends over great distances … without Facebook
  • they depend on optimism
  • and … for them, results are more important than good looking

The Knowledge-Carousel

It is turning around … around … around … and around. Always the same turn, always the same things in view. With changing perspectives, but actually always  at the same place. Sooner or later just boring. And once you overwind … well, mhh … might become unsavory.

I exactly feel like sitting in such a carousel since I seriously entered the world of Knowledge Management (KM). I regularly find myself hanging around at places where people interested in good knowledge working meet virtually or physically, like KM blogs or meetings of like-minded colleagues. In any case, places where people with a greater awareness for the importance and value of Knowledge Management are, many of those knowing each other already for quite a while. “Knowledge workers”, “knowledge experts”, “knowledge managers”, “knowledge enthusiasts”, “knowledge evangelists”, gurus, consultants, etc. pp..

We then intensively discuss the meanings of terms, theoretical and innovative concepts, as well as why so many companies are such ignorant regarding the benefits of KM. Assumed that you are such a rational guy like me, you can glory in that, and without doubt you will meet a lot of interesting people. And normally all will agree, that they know how it works … or as it actually should work.

And it’s true. We know how it could be done, efficiently and with maximum value for a company. But … it is completely for nothing! Well, yes, it always has been nice to talk to each other again. But finally with zero impact on real life. At the end all together spin around, and ever and anon the same people are having the same (philosophical) discussions. They feel comfortable with each other and don’t need anyone else. People know each other, appreciate each other, understand each other.

Just to avoid any misunderstanding. The strategies and concepts developed and discussed by us “knowledge experts” are in general really good and trendsetting. They have the potential to substantially change and improve enterprise knowledge sharing. It is just never applied. Somehow none of all the good ideas and solutions becomes real, in a true implementation. I frankly do not understand so far what leads to failure, and I am thankful for any hint.

By the way, this general tendency for parallel universe seems to be common with all “managements” (Information Management, Knowledge Management, Innovation Management, …). Perhaps a fraction of the problem is within the name already (also see “”Knowledge management is the wrong attitude“).

As a first step I decided to have real life feasibility and implementation as my personal benchmark in the future. I say yes to hot air … if a turbine is driven by it. And I don’t really expect it to be the big strike, the complete new knowledge strategy within the company. I also accept minor steps and improvements, if they go into the right direction. And by the way, this fits to the latest crowd-intelligence-social-media-hype in Knowledge Management (which to my opinion is absolutely overrated … but that’s another story).

One important thing with carousel rides is not to miss the right moment to get off and back on solid ground. Otherwise … as mentioned before, well mhh …

Just the good students turn away

In his today’s newspaper column Sebastian Turner 1, initiator of the Falling Walls Conference 2 (“leading thinkers at the intellectual frontier” ), writes about the lack of qualified professionals in Germany. As part of that he mentions studies done by Manfred Prenzel 3 from the Munich Technical University, that are worth to also be shared with the English-speaking knowledge community.

While studying the German school system, Manfred Prenzel found that for 42% of the investigated students one year at school did not result in learning advancements. They had exactly the same knowledge and skills as 12 months before.

Manfred Prenzel did dig deeper into it, esp. for the subject physics, and found even worse. Those students who had shown noticeable learning progress in physics during one year, unexpectedly and remarkably lost interest in this particular subject. In other words, those physics students who learned most also abandoned the field above average. Just the good school students turned away. This could be seen as the more knowledge is hammered into students heads, the more interest is hammer out.

The scientists did some video analysis of the classes and finally realized that teachers nearly never spoke about why something has to be learned. Good students nevertheless learned … but only as long as they had to. Once they left school, motivation was gone, interest had been killed, finally resulting in a home-made lack of professionals (physicists, engineers e.g.).

So, the drying out pipelines for young professionals in some fields of industry can also be a wake-up call to deal less with “dressage” and rouse more interest. Interest is the basic principle of knowledge, the driver to knowledge.

1 Original article by Sebastian Turner published in the German newspaper “Die Welt”: http://www.welt.de/print/die_welt/debatte/article13394902/Die-Fachkraefte-Mangel.html

2 Blog of the Falling Walls Conference: http://www.falling-walls.com/blog/en/

3 Homepage of Manfred Prenzel at the Munich Technical University: http://www.ebf.edu.tum.de/en/lehrstuhl/manfred-prenzel/

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