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Silver, not dark, linings

Just about a year ago, I wrote about "Dave," a former colleague and friend who suffered through the petty jealousies and politics sadly endemic to large enterprises. Fed up, he quit and started his own consulting firm. In these times, I decided to check in on him—both to find out about his business and to discover how his clients are coping with an economy that Warren Buffet says has "fallen off a cliff. Not only has the economy slowed down a lot, but people have really changed their habits like I haven’t seen."

Dave hasn’t seen a precipitous decline; in fact, he’s as busy as ever. Nor has he seen dramatic layoffs at the companies that engage his services, but companywide furlough days are certainly taking place. For his part, Dave sees spending in knowledge management goods and services as investments to be designed for knowledge workers to do even more, not as a way to do more with fewer people.

Nevertheless, employees are frightened and their imaginations are running away with them. Rumors (so many of which are lined with a dark sense of foreboding) are running the show in some places. Performance is dropping off, and co-workers are trying to sabotage each other in both small and large ways. Dave says he’s witnessing some of the fear-based jealousy and political sniping that led him to start his own small firm. He finds that in many cases, poor internal corporate communication is contributing to the malaise.

No one could possibly argue that these aren’t scary times, so a certain degree of worker jitteriness is to be expected, However, it really is time for C-level leaders to keep those jitters under control—people, not technology, are any organization’s most valuable assets. That’s why the theme of this year’s KMWorld Conference (Nov. 17 to 19, San Jose, Calif.) is "Resetting the Enterprise: Focusing on People, Talent and Knowledge."

I’m sure we all agree that if there is one sector of the economy that can survive—and thrive—in this environment—it is the broad knowledge management arena. We have the most agile, elegant tools and the most talented people of any "industry." And I would argue that while the limber and diverse KM-related software and best practices may not have prevented the recession, they certainly could have softened it.

Our call for conference speakers is now up on the conference site (kmworld.com/kmw09/CallForSpeakers.aspx), so please take this opportunity to submit a proposal. We’re looking for experts who can blend a thorough understanding of technology tools with knowledge, intellect, talent and human capital in open, diverse, transparent organizations. And although pure theory is a critical part of the equation, we need able speakers who can share hands-on, practical implementation of successful initiatives.

Buffett’s assessment of the current economic state is grim. But ultimately, he’s optimistic: "Everything will be all right." 

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