Connect – not Collect

ConnectIn his book, The Wealth of Knowledge, Stewart (2007) wrote that “Connection, not collection” was the essence of knowledge management (p. 175). As our technology – and our understanding and use of it – has expanded, knowledge management has evolved from a basic database repository to a structure that allows us to easily access and leverage collective knowledge (Dixon, 2009). Thus, we now connect – not simply collect (Stewart, 2007).

The launch of the Internet – and all of the technology that has developed as a result – has forever changed our world. In fact, the mere existence of such technology has significantly impacted global events. Our world has been flattened – and these new forms of technology allow for collaboration at a level that was previously unimaginable (Friedman, 2007).

As Friedman (2007) describes, “along came the triple convergence. The Berlin Wall came down, the Berlin mall opened up, and suddenly some three billion people who had been behind walls walked onto the flattened global piazza” (p. 211). In China, Russia and India, economies and political systems opened up at the exact time in which unprecedented collaboration was made possible through new technology and work tools (Friedman, 2007).

While the ability to communicate and collaborate created new opportunities, it also revealed possible ramifications. As Harvard University economist Richard B. Freeman stated, “You don’t bring three billion people into the world economy overnight without huge consequences, especially from three societies with rich educational heritages” (Friedman, 2007, p. 212).

As such, we must recognize that the flattened, open, connected world in which we now live allows for not only historical collaboration but also unparalleled competition. As Friedman (2007) warned, “this is no slow-motion triple convergence. It’s happening fast…and there is nothing that guarantees it will be Americans or Western Europeans permanently leading the way” (p. 213).

As Friedman (2007) stated, the “triple convergence has now reached critical mass, and it involves so many more people and places” (p. 231). Accordingly, such rapid growth of technology and evolution of knowledge management require our leaders to not only embrace and engage these web-based tools but, equally important, to prepare for what’s next.

Carly Fiorina, the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Hewlett-Packard, may have described the extent of this challenge best, declaring that “the last twenty-five years in technology have been the warm-up act. Now we are going into the main event – an era in which technology will literally transform every aspect of business, every aspect of life and every aspect of society” (Friedman, 2007, p. 231).


Steward, T. (2007). The Wealth of Knowledge –Intellectual Capital and the Twenty-First –Century Organization. New York: Random House LLC.

Friedman, T.L. (2007). The World Is Flat: A brief history of the twenty-first century
New York: Picador/Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Dixon, N. (2009, May 2). Three Eras of Knowledge Management. Retrieved from


9 thoughts on “Connect – not Collect

  1. Denise Butts says:

    As you express in your post, the global political landscape has contributed to the competitiveness in the world of innovation thus technology. Yet, with all the efforts to bring people and information closer together, technology has cause many unintended consequences.

    Social media was to be a good way to connect people. Today, those same social forums have become ideal tools for students to bully, harass and threatened other students. As an educator, I know the importance of teaching students how to use technology responsibly and my school often conduct workshops for both students and teachers regarding the use of social media. Technology has been both a blessing and a curse to schools. Schools have created new policies and disciplinary actions just to address cyber misuse. Unfortunately, cell phones, iPads, iPods and most technological tools that students try to bring to school have become nothing short of a major distraction and a nuisance to safety, security and the overall learning environment.

    So, while technology has kicked in another gear, its benefits vary from discipline to discipline.

    • Denise Butts says:

      May I also add that knowledge management has changed the way schools do busy, Insomuch, that we have to ensure that our tech departments have ways to monitor student use of social media. This is critical to maintaining safe schools. We know how students are using social media, but how do we (schools & law enforcement) continue to develop systems to management the exchange of information that pose a threat to schools.


  2. gbarnes05 says:

    Thank you for sharing your post. I love the collect vs. connect example you used to explain the concept and evolution of knowledge management. In addition, I liked that you mentioned the positive and negative aspects of “Triple convergence.” On one hand, triple convergence has allowed us the opportunity to collaborate, connect, and create like never before. However, a “flattened” world has also led to increased competition because it involves so many people from all over the planet. Friedman (2007) noted, “But as the world has gone flat, Gates said, and so many people can now plug and play from anywhere, natural talent has started to trump geography” (p. 225). Furthermore, this competition is happening at a rapid pace that has created a transformation of organizations and new markets to explore.
    As organizations continue to transform, so will our notions of leadership and the habits they will embrace. In other words, if we truly embrace the assumption that the world is flat, then how does the “flat world” leader help define the rules, roles, and relationships to help their organization to remain successful? I believe that leaders must understand that they have the power to shape the direction of their organization by operating from a perspective of abundance, rather than limitation. They must not only be open to learn from others, but must also value innovation and maintain transparency. A “Flat World” leader is one who listen and questions. They are trustworthy leaders who insist that everyone in their organization must also be leaders who listen and question their experience. The “Flat World” leader should be one who embraces the diverse experiences of others by recognizing that they value innovation, not at the expense of the culture of another nation or of the organization. Instead, they pay attention to the values of the culture of others to help them learn, grow, and adapt positively within an ever-changing environment. Finally, these leaders will value the collective knowledge of all to help solve organizational issues. They surround themselves with people of many perspectives, including those who do not wholly agree with their own. Perhaps most important, they “walk the talk” by actively seeking and valuing those who represent many culture, races and perspectives within their organization.
    Technology is a tool that can help “Flat World” leaders to link these values globally. It allows organizational leaders to join the world community as learners, visionaries, collaborators and change agents. However, leaders must learn new habits to help adapt to a “flat world.” The command and control leadership function is rapidly giving way to a more horizontal style that requires collaboration and connections with others. Friedman (2007) stated:
    But these changes will not just affect how business gets done. They will affect how individuals, communities, and companies organize themselves, where companies and communities stop and start, how individuals balance their different identities as consumers, employees, shareholders and citizens, how people define themselves politically, and what role government plays in managing all of this flux. This won’t all happen overnight, but over time many roles, habits, political identities, and management practices that we have grown used to in the round world are going to have to be profoundly adjusted for the age of flatness (p. 233).
    As a result, I think that the future of organizational leadership will require them to utilize technology to help them to develop new ideas by sharing knowledge and diverse experiences with others globally, which will allow them to create shared values that hold no geological boarders. Thank you again for sharing your post.

    – Gbarnes05


    Friedman, T.L. (2007). The World Is Flat: A brief history of the twenty-first century. New York, NY: Picador

    • Your Friedman quote:

      “….But these changes will not just affect how business gets done. They will affect how individuals, communities, and companies organize themselves, where companies and communities stop and start, how individuals balance their different identities as consumers, employees, shareholders and citizens, how people define themselves politically, and what role government plays in managing all of this flux…”

      …is precisely why I plan to shift the textbook of this course from Friedman’s THE WORLD IS FLAT to Clay Shirky’s HERE COMES EVERYBODY, which really gets at how individuals, companies, and communities will organize.

      • jvap2013 says:

        Dr. Watwood – that is great. We actually hosted Clay Shirky for an all-staff training last year. He was wonderful – and offered great insight for the work we do in higher ed. At the conclusion of his session, we all got copies of HERE COMES EVERYBODY.

  3. lrc00053 says:

    I really like your idea of connecting rather than collecting. This concept reminds me of Facebook and LinkedIn. How may individuals collect “friends” or whatever the version of friends is on LinkedIn rather than communicating and disseminating knowledge to those networks? I don’t mean disseminating photos of my kid’s birthday or our family vacation. I’m talking about a real transfer of knowledge. This does not happen very often on those ‘social networks’ and its too bad because they are a great resource. Let’s face it, having more ‘friends’ makes us look better rather than just concentrating on being better.

  4. moirawalsh says:

    Doesn’t Carly Fiorina, HP’s former CEO, contradict Friedman when she states that we are in the warm-up phase of technology, and Friedman states that we have reached critical mass? Which is true when they both have validity?

  5. How can organizations ensure that these connections form a collection of reliable knowledge? I’m sorry for the cutesy word turn, but we have all seen uncontrolled and unmanaged informal knowledge sharing result in misinformation that can be harmful to an organization’s daily operation, or even to its message.

    Organizations must have the ability to reign in the free flow of “knowledge” to make sure that it’s useful, relevant and accurate.

  6. Your connect not collect (and a post by Harold Jarche today) got me motivated to plot my connections. See (Creighton connections is the light blue to the top).

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