While certainly not a history expert, I confess to reading history books, and am fascinated with the things that it can teach us - even in the digital age. So I was pleased to bump into Nick Milton's post this past week, Knowledge Management in the Age of Navigation.
Nick's selection of early navigation - 15th century - with explorers from Spain, Portugal and England reaching out beyond known boundaries has obvious present day relevancy.
There are 4 primary take-aways (for me) from this particular history lesson - and as Nick reminds - that apply to the Project Manager of today (though I think this could even apply to any manager or leader).
Key are: a. Learn Before - study the current knowledge and work with and collaborate with peers, b. Learn During through after action reviews and journals (blogs), and c. Learn After by bringing back knowledge, reviewing, analyzing and making it available for the future. Full descriptions at the link above which I recommend as my notes do not do it justice.
The fourth key to this lesson, which I see as critical, is having a person to spearhead the knowledge capture and evolution. In Nick's navigation study, Henry the Navigator of Portugal, created the Sagres School. This became the center of knowledge related to navigation. At Sagres, captains could study the latest available knowledge and talk with other knowledgeable captains before their expeditions....and then returning back with lessons learned, share them with their successors.In the end, this gave Portugal the competitive advantage in the race for territory at that time.
Centuries later, as I've briefly cataloged in What Is KM, U.S. navigation knowingly or unknowingly followed the Sagres model when Matthew Maury created his book of maps and navigation Sailing Directions to capture and report on swifter sailing routes to South America (story courtesy of James Burke). Similarly he relied on captains experience to continue to enhance his knowledgebase - providing competitive advantage.
Nick Milton has a few of these type lessons that I intend to study further in addition to some of the work that they are doing at Knoco...they not only provide a great setting for lessons in Knowledge Management, but in the context of stories, they are also easy to pass on along with the lesson.