David Weinberger
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If I were CKO

26 June 2000

If I were CKO

Suppose in some twisted alternative universe where cabbages are kings and Sylvester Stallone reads Torah six hours a day instead of lifting weights for that long, suppose I were made the Chief Knowledge Officer of some major corporation with an unlimited budget. What would I do? [Play dream transition music here...]

My very first act would be to make sure everyone had subscriptions to the magazines they want. Industry journals, academic journals, even general-purpose magazines such as Time and Newsweek. You'd also find them in the corporate library, complete with corporate librarian, next to the long shelves of books that make us better professionals or better humans--from "In Search of Excellence" to "Moby Dick" to the collected essays of S.J. Perelman.

Then I'd make it incredibly easy for groups to set up mail aliases to stimulate online discussions where people can educate one another. And I'd archive and index each and every last message.

Of course everyone is already connected to the Net in my company. But I'd emulate Ford, Delta, American Airlines and others and give every employee a free computer and free Web access at home so they can join the global conversation. If they have any interest at all in what they do at work, they'll spend at least some of their time talking with others about it, and will learn a heck of a lot in the bargain.

Next, I'd shut down the house newsletter and encourage as many little personal 'zines to spring up as possible. I'd set up a registry of them so they can be found by anyone in the organization.

I'd set up lunch-time classes, free to all, at which the best teachers inside and outside the organization explain the basics of the business. And why stop with basics? We'd have classes on every aspect of the business. And classes teaching other languages. Cross-departmental learning would be the most highly prized--and celebrated--of all.

Managers who insist on making employees fill out weekly activity reports would at least be required to include a "what I learned" field.

We would have quarterly festivals honoring the best mistakes made by an individual. Leading the ceremonies would be the CEO who would own up to his or her most recent bone-headed moves. This would be a day of great laughter.

I'd even start looking at collaborative intranet software. I'd make it available to any team that wanted to try it out. Who knows, it might actually get used.

Most important, I'd give myself a new, less-pompous title . . . maybe something like CMLAWNSO--Chief Making Life at Work Not Suck Officer.

David Weinberger is editor of The Journal of Hyperlinked Organizations.