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Please begin with an informative title:

In reading this excellent diary by pat of butter in a sea of grits, I wanted to expand on this comment that I posted:

Beyond the copyright issues, it's extremely (2+ / 0-)
unfortunate that so much valuable information remains inaccessible to the people who could put it to use.

Knowedge workers in corporations are told every day: "sorry, we can't pay for that journal... you can't attend that conference (even if you had an abstract accepted there)... you can't spend an hour sitting in on an educational webinar."

Work plods along, but without the most current information, we're just scratching the surface of what could be achieved. Meanwhile, the information we need is there, just inaccessible. In the information age, this is an absurd irony.

As a knowledge worker - someone who used their education, experience, and critical thinking to solve complex problems for customers - keeping up with the state of technical practice crucial to my success. Like many big corporations, my former dysfunctional workplace ("DysCo") was obsessed with cost control. Anything that could be cut from the budget was fair game: people, benefits, office expenses, subcontracts, training, you name it.

Knowledge, as we've seen, ain't cheap. A subscription to a technical journal may cost thousands of dollars. Once you get it in the door, you can't necessarily share it between employees. Back in the olden days of hardcopy, we'd circulate a journal around the office - or between offices. By the time the last person read it, some of the information might already be far from current. With the advent of electronic content, you'd think the problem would be solved. However, in most cases, sharing of electronic files is verboten by copyright provisions. Thus, that journal article, presentation, conference proceedings compilation, or training course that would help dozens - or hundreds - of people in doing their jobs and assisting their employer's customers is unavailable.

Budget considerations are cited every day for decision that opt for ignorance over knowledge.

No, you can't attend that conference (even though your client -with whom you co-authored a presentation - expects you to be there). We can't afford the airfare/registration/time for you to be away from the office.

No, we can't afford that technical journal/set of technical standards/reference material. Do the best you can without it. What have you been using up to now? Keep using that, or just do without.

No, we can't sign people up for that Webinar. There's a freeze on all training budgets, and besides: if you have time to sit in on a Webinar, you should be spending that time working on your projects so we can bill more time to clients.

Like all happy-talk driven corporations, DysCo was proud of being a "state-of-the-art" place. Clients were told that they'd be getting cutting-edge solutions. While we had many truly brilliant people working across the organization, there were limits to what they could achieve in a knowledge-starved work environment.

Meanwhile, researchers in academia and government and other organizations generated knowledge that could have made a huge difference in our work. By simply connecting our practitioners with the available research, we could have elevated our delivery of services to customers around the world, while simultaneously enabling our employees to grow and develop and better mentor others. In reality, all we did was scratch the surface of what could be achieved, using the most rudimentary of tools.

We also generated a great deal of useful information. I was privileged to work on and lead some innovative projects that advanced the state of practice. In some cases, I was able to publish technical papers and conference presentations to share my findings with others - but only with the express permission of our clients and our legal department. Many of my colleagues were told that they couldn't spend time - even their own time - on such efforts. As a result, much of the knowledge we generated remained under wraps.

DysCo was at the forefront of the Information Age (or so our marketing literature assured our customers) but in the trenches, it was a hardscrabble Stone Age travail. In a world that was a virtual banquet of information of every sort imaginable, we had to brown-bag our lunch if we expected to eat at all.

Closing the information gap by making knowledge more accessible and affordable (and convincing our corporate that there's a steep cost for voluntary ignorance) will require major shifts in how knowledge is generated and shared. I don't pretend to have the answers, but now that I've been cut loose from the corporate world, I can dare to ask the questions.


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Originally posted to cassandracarolina's fossil record on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 12:42 PM PST.

Also republished by Retail and Workplace Pragmatists - Members and Editors and In Support of Labor and Unions.

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