July 04, 2014

accessibility and culture in knowledge sharing

While reading some material on KM I recalled a study made by Tocqueville on democracy in the US in 1838. At that time, newspapers were starting spreading and being affordable to anyone. What he noticed was that although information was becoming more accessible, people were not getting more “informed”. In other words, making knowledge more accessible did not imply that people was making more use of it.

Tocqueville’s counter-intuitive observation support the importance of culture in sharing knowledge. Accessing knowledge is a necessary condition, but it does not lead by itself to knowledge sharing.

What do you think it is easier, making knowledge accessible or creating a culture in which people want to access it? After KBAM I would have said the latter, but considering my previous blog entry it doesn’t seem that obvious to me any more...

June 30, 2014

in memory of Aaron

He was just 26 when, one and a half year ago, Aaron Swartz committed suicide in its appartment in Brookling. Last week a movie came out, "the internet's own boy", to document his life: his ideals, the battles he fought, the pressures he went through.

Aaron thought it was deeply unjustice that knowledge was available to a restric minority of the world, namely academies and corporations that can afford it. He wasn't ok in living in a society in which human knowledge is stored and protected by gate keepers, who didn't create it yet claim rights on it and make profit out of it.

That's why he downloaded the millions of articles stored in the MIT's server and shared it in the most democratic technological invention: the internet. How else could a guy in the third world access the cutting edge human knowledge? Yet, the American governament and the MIT didn't like it and made a case out of it, to discourage all the potential opponents to those institutions that prevent knowledge from being accessed by the majority of human population. Aaron was charged for millions of dollars and 35 years of prison: he couldn't stand such a pressure, which ultimately led him to his extreme action.

A part from hunger, I feel disgusted in living in a society where such episodes are admitted. I see the contraddictions of a university that preaches knowledge sharing, yet when a student shows serious intentions about it, it oppose him with any available mean.

This happened last year to a 26 yo guy in one of the most admired university in the US. Do you think that Warwick University would act differently in a similar situation? I would like to hear your opinion on that... and of course, I strongly reccomend the movie to anyone.

March 31, 2014

Can a leader change his style without looking like a false person?

Many leadership style were developed; they all show their best efficacy according to the situation. My question is: can a leader change his style according to the situation without looking false to his followers? Let me give you an example: what would you think of a leader that one day is authoritative and the other is democratic, just because facing different tasks? I believe I would accept this as a follower, as long as he demonstrates the same level of respect to the followers. I would perceive a leader as false if he/she treat me one day with respect and the other with scorn, but not if he/she is changing his style according to the task we have to work on. Has this issue crossed your mind to? What do you think about it?

March 30, 2014

Leadership: heart or brain?

Arthur Shopenhauer thought to his students that desire is futile and it has to be avoided by humans. Then, the same students once caught him in a brothel, and they asked him how was that coherent with his philosophy. His answer was "philosophy does not need witnesses [to work]". Shopenhauer's logic was right: the validity of his theory is independent from his behavior. The rational component of leadership is crucial, but I believe that alone can't make an effective leader. To access the emotional power of followers, an effective leader should give them something more. Coherency, for example. Do you guys agree that being just amazingly rational is not enough for an effective leader?

Natural leader wanted

I am coming across many job offers where being a "natural leader" is quite a frequent requirement. Most of these offers are for graduates students. I know nature vs nurture is a hot debate, but I believe it is limitative for an employer to go for the latter. Believing in leadership as a god given gift implies that no training, effort and experience can improve a person's leadership capability. In other words, the employer does not expect andy leadership development from employees and do not provide them with anything to develop it. I think that those businesses areimissing a great opportunity to progress through their employees; and it negatively affects those employees that, like me, believe in leadership as a result of their work and daily experience. Being one of them, i just avoid applying for those positions. And what if they didn't mean it when they wrote "natural leader" in their requirement list? Well, I suggest them to be more careful with the words they use!

March 02, 2014

“I know it is wrong but I am gonna do it because everybody does”

LEADERSHIP INVOLVES RESPONSIBILITIES. I believe we can’t accept such a way of thinking in a Leadership course. That’s not even followership. That’s blind, irresponsible followership.

Lesson learned guys, remember? You spent a week-end trying to convince Jane that you understood how important it is if we want to progress and not make the same mistakes over and over again.

It happened less than 80 years ago that one of the biggest shame of human history took place because of people who irresponsibly followed a crazy leader. They followed orders, they knew they were not moral, but they thought they had no voice to make things go differently. HISTORY SENTENCES THEY WERE WRONG. It is called world war, which means that involves you all regardless of your provenience, language, religion. You have no excuses to not be informed about it.

Please have a look at this documentary. It takes just 15 min of your time. The relevant part according to what I am saying starts from 7:10 and last few minutes.


Your actions count, regardless of your position. We must not compromise, we must refuse to go against our values. And if everybody is doing something which we believe is wrong, we must not accept it. WE MUST NOT BE ACCOMPLICE.

Thank you

Would you go for a job that goes against your values?

Please note that such question disregard your own definition of what is ethic or not: don’t focus on that. Moreover, I would like to highlight that I am not judging anyone. I absolutely don’t want to spoil the delicate and unique learning environment that we have in our class, which is what allowed today’s discussion to happen and to make me write this entry. I just want to invite you to think about a topic that I consider extremely important for everyone.

Why do you want to be a leader? To create a vision and influence people to support it, or to “grow your kids”?

If it is the first, then it is not tolerable to support something that goes against our ethic. Indeed, that’s exactly the moment in which the leader in us has to come out, to purpose an alternative ACCORDING TO OUR VALUES and to change the way things are running.

If it is the second, I honestly think you should reconsider your leadership ambition. Some business man and politicians are ruining MY country to grow THEIR kids. The world does not need this kind of “leader” anymore. I am not judging you, but if this is your goal please consider some other positions that do not affect other people. Pursue your own goals, which is absolutely fine, but do it on your own.

Coming back to today’s discussion, maybe we could add this consideration: a leader should give up if he/she can’t refuse to undertake an action that clearly goes against his/her ethic and values.

Is CSR moral?

In today class, we held an interesting discussion on CSR. Some of us where sceptic about it, as at the very end it is all about getting a return. I think we all agree business is not charity, and whatever it does aims to have a return. Fair enough.

I would like to share my analysis of CSR from a moral perspective. Let’s take the morality as described by Kant. According to Immanuel Kant, an action can’t be moral if it is driven by extrinsic motivation. Therefore, whatever action a business undertakes in order to get a return, is not moral.

Nevertheless, some business may consider a CSR initiative because it intrinsically believes that it is a good thing to be done, regardless of the return. For example, a company that donates part of its revenue to a social cause may be doing both a moral or immoral action, according to the real motivation that makes it do it.

One of the critics that was moved to Kant’s morality is that it just considers the intention, and not the actual output. Indeed, the same output can be generated by different motivations, which can be extrinsic or intrinsic.

To resume, assuming an aspect of the Kant’s definition of moral action, CSR can be moral or immoral: if it is done just to get a return, for sure it is not moral. The motivation is a necessary condition, but not sufficient. Indeed, other aspects of Kant’s morality have to be considered

I would like to have your view on the morality of CSR according to your personal definition of morality. The one I provided is considered a pillar of European philosophy, I think it would be interesting to compare it with others.

Thanks! Bye

February 24, 2014

seriously?? are we here to talk about coffee break??

In today class we ran a simulation, a mock meeting to discuss an issue on how to hold a coffee break in an office. I think that, as a manager, I did a really great job as I assured everybody had the opportunity to speak his/her point of view and suggest his/her own solution. In the end, we come up all together with a very valuable solution which conciliated everyone who had an interest in the issue.
A meeting on coffee breakes? It may seems we did something stupid and obvious, but we didn't, and I want to show you why by sharing you my personal experience.

In my previous job I participated to an automotive exposition, where our stand was one of the biggest and it had a bar within. The first day, in low-peak hours, some of us went there to take some food or even just a coffee; of course, we did it wisely: before leaving our places, we assured that there always was a colleague who could eventually take care of visitors, and we didn’t do it more than twice along the 8 hours of exposition. The next day, we were told that we could not get anything from the bar anymore, reason being that it is not nice to show our expositors eating in an exposition. I felt so bad, and I perceived the humiliation that such an order meant to me colleagues, especially the senior ones: although they had no authority, they had been working for the company for many years, and they were then treated like greedy child. Come on managers, do you really think we were not mature enough to understand when we can go for a break and when we should not? do you have this low consideration of us, that you need to impose a rule on that without consulting us?

If management held a meeting similar to the one we had in today’s class, I am sure we would have come up with an equally good solution, showing people appreciation for their ideas and job. But things went differently, people got disappointed and that spoilt the whole time we had at that exposition.

Just a reflection: if I will ever be in a similar situation I will definitely go for the "MBE’s way”.

do you guys agree that such small things do make a great difference?


February 17, 2014

"to be a leader, you have to love your followers"

In today’s class, Paul showed appreciation for a field-worker technical skills, and he honestly admitted that he was completely unable of performing his everyday job. He appreciated that another person had valuable skills and knowledge that he didn’t have.

As opposed to Paul, I often come across many smart people that complain that their mates are incapable, they don’t know basic stuff and they are ignorant.

A wise Italian professor once said that it is difficult to appreciate in people what they know that we don’t. So, we tend to think some people are ignorant just because they don’t have the same knowledge we do have!

How many times have you heard old people complaining about young people skills, competences? And if we look back, we find out that this belief has always affected generations throughout history. Nevertheless, it is evident that the amount of human knowledge and competences have always increased as centuries went by.

For example, I have always been considered by my uncle as ignorant. Yes, he calls me donkey. But he loves me. Anyway, reason being that he knows some pretty cool stuff like ancient greek, then he looks for his knowledge in me, he can’t find it, and therefore he concludes that I am ignorant. On the other hand, he doesn’t know anything of computer science, so he can’t appreciate how valuable it is, and he can’t recognize that I own this competence. In other words, I am good at computer science, but he can’t see it because he is not.

I think a good leader, who work with people whose knowledge and skills are various, have to keep in mind this human attitude every time he/she is tempted to think that someone is incompetent, incapable, ignorant.

And maybe, this is what Confucius meant when he said that to be a leader, you have to love your followers: you have to appreciate and respect people, especially when it seems that you just can’t, because really few people can do it and that’s what make you a leader.

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Most recent comments

  • Hi Roma! Good insight as usual! You are right, sharing something owned by someone else without his/h… by Carlo Carpinteri on this entry
  • The reaction and consequences of what happened to Aaron Swartz surely come across as brutal first. B… by Roma Chughtai on this entry
  • This is a nice piece Carlo, interesting. Thanks for sharing. I have learnt something from it. by Anne Ayang on this entry

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