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In reading this excellent diary by pat of butter in a sea of grits, I wanted to expand on this comment that I posted:

Beyond the copyright issues, it's extremely (2+ / 0-)
unfortunate that so much valuable information remains inaccessible to the people who could put it to use.

Knowedge workers in corporations are told every day: "sorry, we can't pay for that journal... you can't attend that conference (even if you had an abstract accepted there)... you can't spend an hour sitting in on an educational webinar."

Work plods along, but without the most current information, we're just scratching the surface of what could be achieved. Meanwhile, the information we need is there, just inaccessible. In the information age, this is an absurd irony.

As a knowledge worker - someone who used their education, experience, and critical thinking to solve complex problems for customers - keeping up with the state of technical practice crucial to my success. Like many big corporations, my former dysfunctional workplace ("DysCo") was obsessed with cost control. Anything that could be cut from the budget was fair game: people, benefits, office expenses, subcontracts, training, you name it.

Knowledge, as we've seen, ain't cheap. A subscription to a technical journal may cost thousands of dollars. Once you get it in the door, you can't necessarily share it between employees. Back in the olden days of hardcopy, we'd circulate a journal around the office - or between offices. By the time the last person read it, some of the information might already be far from current. With the advent of electronic content, you'd think the problem would be solved. However, in most cases, sharing of electronic files is verboten by copyright provisions. Thus, that journal article, presentation, conference proceedings compilation, or training course that would help dozens - or hundreds - of people in doing their jobs and assisting their employer's customers is unavailable.

Budget considerations are cited every day for decision that opt for ignorance over knowledge.

No, you can't attend that conference (even though your client -with whom you co-authored a presentation - expects you to be there). We can't afford the airfare/registration/time for you to be away from the office.

No, we can't afford that technical journal/set of technical standards/reference material. Do the best you can without it. What have you been using up to now? Keep using that, or just do without.

No, we can't sign people up for that Webinar. There's a freeze on all training budgets, and besides: if you have time to sit in on a Webinar, you should be spending that time working on your projects so we can bill more time to clients.

Like all happy-talk driven corporations, DysCo was proud of being a "state-of-the-art" place. Clients were told that they'd be getting cutting-edge solutions. While we had many truly brilliant people working across the organization, there were limits to what they could achieve in a knowledge-starved work environment.

Meanwhile, researchers in academia and government and other organizations generated knowledge that could have made a huge difference in our work. By simply connecting our practitioners with the available research, we could have elevated our delivery of services to customers around the world, while simultaneously enabling our employees to grow and develop and better mentor others. In reality, all we did was scratch the surface of what could be achieved, using the most rudimentary of tools.

We also generated a great deal of useful information. I was privileged to work on and lead some innovative projects that advanced the state of practice. In some cases, I was able to publish technical papers and conference presentations to share my findings with others - but only with the express permission of our clients and our legal department. Many of my colleagues were told that they couldn't spend time - even their own time - on such efforts. As a result, much of the knowledge we generated remained under wraps.

DysCo was at the forefront of the Information Age (or so our marketing literature assured our customers) but in the trenches, it was a hardscrabble Stone Age travail. In a world that was a virtual banquet of information of every sort imaginable, we had to brown-bag our lunch if we expected to eat at all.

Closing the information gap by making knowledge more accessible and affordable (and convincing our corporate that there's a steep cost for voluntary ignorance) will require major shifts in how knowledge is generated and shared. I don't pretend to have the answers, but now that I've been cut loose from the corporate world, I can dare to ask the questions.

Originally posted to cassandracarolina's fossil record on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 12:42 PM PST.

Also republished by Retail and Workplace Pragmatists - Members and Editors and In Support of Labor and Unions.

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Comment Preferences

  •  My Grandfather was a teacher. (9+ / 0-)

    After he finished with the Army, taught High School History.

    Twice he had what was called a Sabbatical.  Yes, they used to give those to high school teachers.

    Took his entire family to Europe and the Middle East.  Explored, learned, became refreshed and came home.

    His teaching always improved, he said, whenever a breath of fresh knowledge was taken.

    Ignorance and cost cutting breed only ignorance and jealousy.

    I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

    by detroitmechworks on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 12:53:15 PM PST

    •  Yes - imagine that! (3+ / 0-)

      Everyone could use an educational Sabbatical, but in today's world, if you can't do it for free, on your own time, without impairing your ability to generate profits for The Man, forget about it.

      Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

      by cassandracarolina on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 12:55:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Back in the day (not too long ago), even (2+ / 0-)

        businesses had sabbaticals: Intel did it.  Not sure if they do still, or if anyone else does.  Admittedly, rare in the business world.

        I'm part of the "bedwetting bunch of website Democrat base people (DKos)." - Rush Limbaugh, 10/16/2012 Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

        by tom 47 on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 01:53:32 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Now we'd be lucky to attend a 90-minute (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Melanie in IA, Cassandra Waites

          Webinar. No sabbaticals that I'm aware of. Training budgets were among the first things slashed. It's a huge problem for some of us with professional licenses that require continuing education credits to renew. Fortunately we put on a bunch of internal Webinars (which we were able to accredit), but recycling our own knowledge was no substitute for infusing NEW knowledge.

          Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

          by cassandracarolina on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 01:55:47 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Not even that. (2+ / 0-)

        If you save enough money, QUIT your job, take the time for yourself on your own tab and increase your knowledge and sophistication, then when you go looking for a new job, you have a dreaded Employment Gap.  You were (gasp!) NOT WORKING for six months.  You DARED to take time for own needs, paying your own way.  You are no longer employable, because you demonstrated independence from the expectations of others.

  •  At my company, it's (5+ / 0-)

    Cost saving efforts have caused us to remove all debugging tools from our systems. System crash? You figure it out.

    When collective bargaining is outlawed, only outlaws will have collective bargaining.

    My political compass: - 8.38,-6.97

    by pucklady on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 12:53:33 PM PST

    •  This is similar to the cuts in staff (6+ / 0-)

      in administrative, IT, and other "support" roles, so that highly paid people with none of the requisite skills can fix the copy machine, solve their computer problems, do their own word processing, and then get yelled at because their "real" jobs aren't getting done.

      Maximum frustration for all involved, and no cost savings.

      Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

      by cassandracarolina on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 12:57:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Oh, don't forget arranging your own travel. (4+ / 0-)

        Because it's a lot more efficient for you at some high rate of pay to do that, rather than paying an agency to do it for you. Yeah.... Cuz it might take you two hours to figure out the flights and hotels and car to coordinate with your work partner from another city, where it might take an agency a quarter of the time... geeeeeeez..... You can tell this one's a sore spot...

        I get to choose, and I choose love.

        by Melanie in IA on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 02:52:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Oh and then you're the one who gets beat up (2+ / 0-)

          or expenses questioned, because you didn't choose the cheapest flight that would take ALL FREAKIN' DAY to get there, rather than the one a little more expensive that would take 5 hours total. Yeah...

          I get to choose, and I choose love.

          by Melanie in IA on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 02:53:07 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes - this was a big bone of contention (3+ / 0-)

            You'd have to expend hours of non-billable time to find the cheaper flight or hotel, while the corporate overlords tooled around in limos and drank $200 bottles of wine with dinner on expense accounts. Never mind the lost time sitting at airports. After a while, I just adopted the philosophy that

            It's better to beg forgiveness than ask permission.

            Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

            by cassandracarolina on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 02:58:54 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Very true - at all levels but especially new hire (7+ / 0-)

    What really burns my ass is that when you consider the jobs of today and need to keep updating knowledge and skills, yet much of Corporate America acts as if it was still 1950 and people can be proficient at their jobs for 40 years with naught more than an orientation day and 2 weeks of training.

    Yes, that worked for my father's job - a machine operator at GE. He did work there 40 years, earned a decent wage on which he raised 3 kids, bought a house, had a car, vacation in the summer.  Off to work at 6:30 a.m., home by 3:30 pm in time to play in a golf league, coach sports, help out at the church. Saved enough to at least help us with college, had a retirement pension and later in life had enough to buy a week's timeshare in St. Maarten and go to Red Sox spring training each year.

    But it doesn't work for today's jobs. My last job I put in an inventory purchasing and control system that saved the company over $250K per year - do you think we could get 10% of that to send people to train on it and further their cost accounting skills? No.

    Me - accountant, now on my 6th job, good wages and benefits and I do get to do training now at the new job. But I'm off to work at 6:30 am and home at 7:00 pm. Struggling to help my daughter stay out of debt to go to college because her 529 plan that I started when she was a baby shit the bed in 2000, again in 2008 and overall has earned about 1/2 of what I was hoping. No pension, just 401K (which of course has returned a crappy 3% per annum on average these past 12 years). I too will enjoy St. Maarten and the Red Sox - watching them on TV, that is.

    Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

    by absdoggy on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 01:05:06 PM PST

    •  Excellent comment, absdoggy (4+ / 0-)

      The costs of willful ignorance reverberate for many years. As humans, we are "wired" to learn; it's a natural hunger. When this imperative is thwarted, employees will likely put in only the effort needed to stave off termination. You'll never get the bright ideas, energy, or innovation needed to give a corporation an edge in a competitive market.

      As my dad - a design engineer - used to say about his employers' tendencies to scrimp on recognition:

      "Your latest innovation has saved us millions! We offer you our sincere thanks.

      Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

      by cassandracarolina on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 01:18:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  once upon a time (3+ / 0-)

    (and still) Tennessee state government decreed that no conferences, seminars, etc., would be approved or paid for is they were west of the Mississippi.  When the new politically-connected director came on board, where did he go for a conference?  San Francisco.  Let me get a map....

    Oh, for Pete's sake!

    by sow hat on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 01:05:50 PM PST

  •  That's strange (3+ / 0-)
    "Beyond the copyright issues" .."No, we can't afford that technical journal/set of technical standards/reference material. Do the best you can without it. What have you been using up to now? Keep using that, or just do without."
    I think that was the point that Mr. Schwartz was making .  How is it that knowledge that was paid for multiple times by taxpayers became copyrighted and how is that large amounts of money are being charged to access it.  It isn't "beyond Copyright issues". That is the issue right there.  

    We have decided to let a blob filled with uneducated technically inept, knowledge deficient lawmakers create laws that turn people into felons for "crimes" that once were purely civil torts. We keep electing them to office if they have the right label, and then wonder why it is we are unable to keep up with the deluge of new knowledge that is required for any knowledge worker to be able to provide the best possible solutions to their clients, especially IT.

    Do you wonder if the amount of knowledge that should be in the public domain , but isn't, would have helped IT corporations help their clients? How would you know if the solutions you did come up with weren't a recreation of the wheel that someone had to pay big bucks to get.

    Just out of curiosity, did the corporations that you worked for do these projects under work for hire or did they retain the copyrights for the work that they had done?

    If a company is advertising the latest technological solutions to their clients but actively limited the ability of it workers to access the latest technology, a worker should advise the client company's where IT initiatives fail to sue for false advertising at the minimum since the Obama Justice Dept has made it a signature   priority to  crush whistleblowers  for corporate America at every opportunity.

    Just to be a free lancer in IT I  spend thousands each year to have subscriptions to video tutorial services on new technologies, access to new software at affordable prices and variety of other aids that came via free trade magazines and online websites.  As a Free Lancer, I didn't have any benefits, uncertain work-hours, a high level of pressure and at the same time I had to use my free time to keep my knowledge up-to-date in a variety of technologies. I have switched my business but am still a service provider and I still have to spend those thousands a year.

    I wonder if some of the people complaining here ever spent any of their own money to keep themselves up-to-date or were waiting for employers to do it for them. It seems like they should be doing it for self protection if nothing else. No job is Guaranteed anymore. Were they being paid enough where a few thousand a year would have represented a substantial change in their lifestyles? Sure I know corporations are supposed to be doing this. But they aren't . People need to start treating their careers as businesses.

    •  Great comments, Dburn (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cassandra Waites, Dburn

      With regard to your question:

      Just out of curiosity, did the corporations that you worked for do these projects under work for hire or did they retain the copyrights for the work that they had done?
      The company was paid, and for the most part the intellectual property resulting (reports, engineering designs, datasets, recommendations) were the property of the client.

      With regards to this great point:

      I wonder if some of the people complaining here ever spent any of their own money to keep themselves up-to-date or were waiting for employers to do it for them.
      Many of us did spend our own money to keep up to date, to support our professional licenses, and to satisfy our drive to learn (and to keep ourselves marketable when we'd eventually be laid off).

      Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

      by cassandracarolina on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 03:02:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Yes, no training budget. At all. (2+ / 0-)

    No professional journals. Only a couple approved professional associations. We did have some excellent resources for economic and market research, but beyond those it was no-go.

    And QUIT BUYING THOSE DAMN PAPER CLIPS!!! And NO MORE POST-IT NOTES!!!

    yeah...

    I get to choose, and I choose love.

    by Melanie in IA on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 02:55:44 PM PST

    •  Professional associations are great (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Melanie in IA, Cassandra Waites

      but they require an investment of time - being on committees, attending meetings, reviewing draft materials. Many companies refuse to allow employees the time to do that, and expecting it all to be done as a "hidden factory" doesn't work, and isn't fair.

      Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

      by cassandracarolina on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 03:03:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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