Mark Hammer

One of the most important things I get done in the office, apart from the tasks I’m assigned, is knowledge transfer. I talk to the younger people, and provide them with organizational history. Not gossip, but the sort of stuff that cannot be found in any paper or electronic document; the “interstitial spaces” of corporate memory. I introduce them to ideas, and ways of looking at things that are foreign to their particular training. Most often, it happens during moments of surprise, when something I thought the co-worker knew is a blank in their cortex. Happens with management too. And some of it is silo-busting, filling people in on stuff happening in other corners of the organization.

Now, I’ll be honest and freely admit that yes, we DO talk about non-work things; the recent “My Name is Earl” reunion on “Raising Hope”, for example, and the dirty hit on an Ottawa hockey player the other night that resulted in a concussion. But I digress. We hear plenty, and certainly read about it in the journals, about the importance of trust relationships within organizations, between organizations, and between organizations and their various stakeholders, like citizens (or if you’re one of those – customers). Just how do folks think trust gets established, if not through casual schmoozing? Obviously, people have to actually DO something useful and/or productive at work (and they are not always the same thing), but the same way that families have a hard time being families if they never eat together at the same table, organizations have a hard time being organizations, and work teams being teams, if they are not regularly in each other’s company.

BTW, I gather Branson’s little outburst has spread far and wide, because a (non-syndicated) piece in our local paper this morning commented on it as well. Much to my surprise, the writer expressed views similar to what I expressed the other day: that there will be a subset of jobs where this sort of move makes sense and does not interfere with anything, but the vast majority of jobs, workplaces, and enterprises will carry on the same way they always have, because they need to.

Reminds me of what I used to read about 30 years ago in the neuroscience literature. There were all manner of papers and clinical reports on tissue transplant as potential “cures” or at least treatments, for Parkinsonism. The animal literature looked very promising, and there were a few clinical trials. Muhammed Ali was reputed to have undergone some tissue transplant in Mexico (transplanted neural tissue to supplement dysfunctional substantia nigra in the brainstem, so that normal dopamine production could re-occur, I think). We seemed well on our way to conquering it. So what happened? Well, number one, surgery is expensive, and very risky unless one is in robust shape. Right away, that rules out vast segments of the population for financial reasons, and similarly large chunks of the target population of seniors with the shakes who had a whole bunch of concurrent health issues that made them bad risks for particularly invasive surgery. Second, there is not an unlimited supply of surgical suites, surgeons, anaesthesiologists, and nurses to spend large amounts of time doing what is clearly a very complex and lengthy procedure. And last but certainly not least, there was the little ethical issue of where to get the tissue from. Put that altogether, and here we are, 30 years later, with the breakthrough stopped dead in its tracks. Sometimes, ground-breaking ideas only pertain to a very narrow swathe of situations, and both operational and unexpected and practical factors stop it from being relevant beyond that little swathe.

As always, people are cordially invited to get back to me in 5 years and tell me I’m an idiot. No, no, no, I said five years from now, not now! Thank you for your patience in the matter. 🙂

Have a great weekend!