Friday, July 17, 2009

The World of Wodehouse and Knowledge Management

What-ho! What-ho! Jolly good day, today being a Friday and all that, what? Last week, during a bored moment, I impulsively told Tweeple who cared to listen to my babblings that it would be dashed nice to hit upon a good idea for a blog post. A fellow KM enthusiast @Kirti responded immediately and suggested that I write something about Wodehouse and KM..…as in, draw some connections between these two awe-inspiring topics. Now, connecting the seemingly unconnected is always an absorbing exercise! You, quite often, might come away wondering if you have some hitherto undetected supernatural powers within you. Of course, the euphoria doesn’t normally last very long but even a few seconds of the aforementioned delusion is good for the aspiring soul, don’t you know?

Where were we? Yes…so, the idea excited me and things looked oojah-cum-spiff for a while but somewhere in my mind I had an inevitable and lurking concern that I’d not be able to do justice to the topics. To write about Wodehouse, one needs to be in one’s element both in the use of language as well as in the employment of one’s sense of humor and to write about KM one needs to be what is the word I am looking for, Jeeves? No…not inspired…something that goes beyond inspiration and ventures into the context and current relevant experience, if you get my drift, which I was not so sure of.

Anyway, the initial excitement led me to making some quick notes on the potential connections between the two topics and then sharpening a broken pencil tip. [Wish someone would invent a brain-sharpener and make it a free download thingy, what?]

OK. I guess you’ll clearly see through my meaningless ramblings and discover my attempt to avoid hitting the nail on the head if I continue this preamble any longer. So, let’s take the supreme risk of looking into my random thoughts on how the Master and his works may be linked with the fascinatingly versatile field of knowledge management.

Random thought #1: When I read Plum’s (Wodehouse) perfect and hilariously creative use of English, the first thing that comes to my mind is how good his personal knowledge management strategies ought to have been. He knew his words, similes, metaphors, idioms and grammar better than anyone else I can think of at this moment. His writings are so effective that they transport us to the world that the characters of his book live in and make us laugh and chuckle along with them. Personal knowledge management in this case, according to me, is largely attributable to Plum’s passion + hard work + discipline + natural talent for humor. If you’re looking for a take away, here it is – managing your personal knowledge and strengths is a surefire way to success! [As if you didn’t know that! Bah!]

Random thought #2: Most of Plum’s novels have amazingly sophisticated and knotty plots that somehow magically sort themselves out right at the end of the story (perhaps on the very last page!). The last page turns out to be, in many of his books, where the main character attains the much-awaited nirvana/enlightenment (as in, overcomes his/her challenge). What goes into the first 200 odd pages prior to the climax are the beautifully weaved pieces of the context - each bit of which serves to adorn the overall story, add its own unique flavor and lead the story to its delightful climax. There’s nothing superfluous. There’s nothing omitted. It’s oh-so-perfect and comes to you at just the right pace with maybe some rare exceptions. What am I driving at? When knowledge is shared or tapped into, in my humble opinion, the aforementioned approach is a fantastic one to keep in mind. I love quotes and the insights that they give away on a platter but when it comes to finding solutions to some real life situations, I think the context and how it is fit into the overall ‘story’ is what makes knowledge sharing an effective activity/process. The take-away: Remember that sharing knowledge or even simple communication is not just about saying what happened but also sharing the “why” and then adding just the right amount of feelings, emotions and musings to it.

Random thought #3: Now, this one, I think, will almost certainly take the cake. Be ready to raise an eyebrow or two and let the lips twitch a bit. Jeeves, the miracle man who solves all of Bertie’s and his friends’ problems, I suspect, was a staunch believer of knowledge management concepts that we KMers try really hard to promote. No wonder he was and continues to be such a big hit. Wipe that skeptical look off your face, will you? No, I am not talking about the search engine (AskJeeves). A closer look at Jeeves’s methods will, no doubt, prove me right. Consider these facts: (Thanks to @Kirti for reiterating Jeeves’s importance in the context of this topic)

1. He stays connected with a mind-boggling number of peers. He knows a cook here, a valet there, a chauffeur somewhere and what not (And these are the people who supply him with the information that later turns out to be critical for success)
2. He attends the monthly valet meetings and is up-to-date with the stories that other valets share about their respective employers. The community that Jeeves is a part of even publishes a book with queer facts about their employers (and it is, if I remember right, mandatory for everyone in the community to share and publish these facts)
3. His intentions are supreme. He really wants to save his employer from getting into complex situations. He even wants to save Bertie’s friends when he knows they mean a lot to Bertie
4. He generally gets something in return from Bertie. Sometimes tangible and sometimes intangible (Bertie stops wearing that repulsive pink tie, for example) but Jeeves never really uses his knowledge for the purposes of getting something in return! He uses it because it is there to be used and he knows Bertie needs it. The returns come simply because Bertie is so generous and know Jeeves deserves the best
5. He doesn’t make a big deal of his knowledge. He doesn’t jump around and boast about the intelligence he possesses (Unfathomable for those who know Jeeves). He doesn’t pretend to be a savior but merely says it is his pleasure to help his employer. That makes him so very approachable and gets him the respect he so deserves!
6. He has a head that sort of juts out at the back. In other words, a peculiarly shaped head is apparently something of significance in this context
7. He is suspected to consume a lot of fish which in turn is suspected to be responsible for enviable mental growth
8. The 6th and 7th points, obviously, are not directly or, for that matter, indirectly related to KM concepts but I don’t think anyone is going to object to their inclusion in this list. These points will, hopefully, put the other 5 points in perspective. ;-)
[This should undoubtedly prove my vegetarianism. I don’t eat fish. And my head doesn’t jut out at the back]


In other related news, I recently heard about some bloke pretending to be Harry Potter on Twitter. Prompts me to imagine how it would be if Bertie and Jeeves had blogs and twitter accounts!

Bertie would be frustrated with Twitter’s 140 character limitations and prefer to use blogs to explain his predicaments to Jeeves. His tweets would be on the following lines:

@Jeeves I say, Jeeves. Check this link [blog post] out, will you? This is a dashed what is the word I am looking for, don’t you know? I am dashed if I know… [Message truncated]

But, on the other hand, Twitter would be just right for Jeeves. [Another example of how he can adapt himself to the latest KM tools!] He’d simply have to tweet things like:

@Bertie Very Good, Sir.
@Bertie I endeavor to give satisfaction, Sir.
@Bertie [Raised eyebrow] This is indeed disturbing news, Sir.
@Bertie Shall I pack your clothes, Sir?
@Bertie Here’s your b. and s. Sir. *

(*b. and s. = Brandy and Soda)

Like I am now fond of saying, Plum is God’s answer to boredom, depression, climate-change, terrorism and war. Remind me to add KM to that list. That’s all for now, folks. Two Tinkerty tonks, three Toodle-oos and one Pip-pip!

PS: I tried. I really tried. But my sense of humor seems to have gone on a long vacation to Timbaktu. Pshaw! Tchah! Wish it would take me as well next time around. I need a nice delightful break in some alien land especially after writing this long post. For now, I shall probably thank God that the weekend is almost here and take a walk [If you’re an alien, send me a DM on Twitter and we’ll negotiate on the rates for the vacation]

@nimmypal’s_sense_of_humor Looking for you. Please come back. You’re needed.

Note: Wikipedia on Wodehouse, Wikipedia on Knowledge Management


KayKap said...

Hey Buddy,

Yes, in caps, loved it; so loved the Jeeves section, more than PGW, it is Jeeves who is the epitome of what a KM-er should be like, ever ready to help.
And a million thankees for the mentions.
Brilliant, absolutely brilliant!

Some more wanna more :-)

KayKap said...

To add to my previous comment:
We in KM lay so much store by and emphasis on Story Telling. PGW is a great storyteller, he takes you deep into his narrative, involving you, interweaving you with the incidents and characters that you soon begin to live the story. Is that not what great sharing and KM is all about? Learning from experiences?

Nimmy said...

Well, well, well!! :-) What shall I say? Obviously, I'm thrilled to know you enjoyed reading this post. It was, after all, your idea to connect the two topics! :-) Your response motivates me to stay alert on other potential connections between the two. ;-)

And totally splendid point you have there about Plum's capacity for storytelling and knowledge sharing! Wow! Absolutely significant thing that~!

Rock on! :-)

KayKap said...

I just made a suggestion, Kudos to you for taking it up and coming up with this.

On the potential connection front, you might to look at how smoothly Jeeves coordinates things, what with all the "oh Blimeys" and "oh dashes" floating around.
My memory is kinda tired, but I don't recall Bertie or his friends taking offense to Jeeves guidance and aid and gentle directions...?

Nimmy said...

Yeah!!! Jeeves's talent for coordination...must catch up with one of those stories to revive my memory! And, no, there never is not even a single occasion, AFAIK, wherein anyone objects to Jeeves's guidance...on the contrary, they just stop short of falling at his feet to get him to share his ideas! :-) Even those who get to know him for the first time are generally in awe of him within a few minutes. 8-)

Hobo ........ ........ ........ said...

I wish I can read.

Nimmy said...

Wish you could read what? A PG Wodehouse book??

narendra shenoy said...

This is totally brilliant! One doffs one's hat! And one tries to figure out how this might be shared.... Facebook, I suppose? And Google reader

Hobo ........ ........ ........ said...

Long post - I am lazy to read.
Sorry !!!

Nimmy said...

Sigsbee! (Oops...I mean, Narendra) I really don't know what to say except that I am feeling really good....I, personally, was not particularly happy with the post given the Master's standard of humor and language and my own relatively mediocre stuff! But praise from a person like you makes me feel so much better! :-) PS: I did tweet about this post. Now awaiting inputs from other Wodehouse enthusiasts! :-)
Thanks for the comment, once again!

Nimmy said...

Hobo: No need to apologize! :-) If the topic interests you, I am sure you'd have read it! Anyway, you're a person who reads most of my other ramblings... ;-)

Aristarkhos said...

This is quite a comparison.
Unfortunately, I do not understand KM that well to be able to completely relate to every point you have made. But I think I do get the basic gist of what you trying to say though. The noodle is a little sluggish today...will that excuse do? :)

Funny you mention Twitter. It would be quite odd to follow them. Pongo would publicise his parties on Twitter too.
I follow Stephen Fry (who played the part of Jeeves in the J&W TV series) on Twitter. Always pictured Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie in my head while thinking about J&W. That was because the TV series was my first subtle introduction to PGW.

Oh I digress. Have a nice weekend!

~ Beach

Hobo ........ ........ ........ said...

HOBO - The moody.

Nimmy said...

Hey there, Beach aka Geek Gawd! :-)) Thanks for leaving a comment despite carrying a temporarily sluggish head on those geek shoulders! far so OK. Here's hoping you have a fantastic Sunday! :-)

asimov said...

Kudoos to you. You did a fantastic research on Jeeves and Bertie. Even you approched it philosophically too. When i read P.G.Woodhouse in my college days i noticed its humour and correct form of English usage only. Ofcourse we had an insight into English customs and manners. I am going to visit him again.

Nimmy said...

Thanks so much, Asimov. Actually, to be honest, I think there's a lot more that one can extract out of Wodehouse's books. It is an ocean out there! And I am thrilled to know you're going to read Wodehouse again! My secret goal is to get everyone on earth to read and celebrate Wodehouse! :-)

travelogues said...

Nicely done Nirmala.
Not knowing too much about KM[ We knew it by different names in my time], I cannot comment on the appropriateness of connections.
But the Wodehouse portion is done very well.
About Jeeves being altruistic in his desire to help Bertie, well, I have my views, but obviously this is not the place to talk about that.


Nimmy said...

Thanks a ton, Sudheer! :-) I was actually waiting for someone to rake up a debate on this - about Jeeves's altruism! ;-) Maybe you could talk about it in our WI forum! I'd seriously love to listen to some contradictory thoughts on this topic...though it may have an impact on the image that I have of Jeeves. :-)

Manasa Kakulavarapu said...

Awesome lady...Well done!! You've inspired me to dust my old P.G.Wodehouse books and read them again...this time with my KM glasses on :D

Nimmy said...

Thanks, Doc! So you did manage to "graduate" into a reading+writing role in blogosphere now, eh? ;-) Thanks a lot! And no one's going to be happier than I if this post urges you to go back to reading PLUM. Best thing you can ever do in life and all that rot! :-))Toodle-oo!

Lubna said...

Right ho, Nimmy.

K J SHENOY said...

Having read PGW For many years, his wraith has mutated my DNA, so much so that even when I write an email his style creeps in. Read my 'Cat-alytic Conversion'and you will know what I mean. Thanks for the above enlightening post.Cheers.

Nimmy said...

@Lubna: Thanks a lot, Lubna! :-)

@K J Shenoy: Wow! Glad to meet yet another PGW fan! Going off to read your stuff right away! :-) Thanks for the comment!