Chapter 1. Knowledge, History, and the Industrial Organization

In this first chapter, we review how the human species has pursued and handed down knowledge through the ages as an integral function of society and how modern organizations applied—and ignored—this ancestral heritage as they faced the challenges of 20th-century management. Many of those challenges during the past 150 years were being confronted for the first time in the vast panorama of human history. Mass production, mass marketing, and the tremendous advances in transportation and communication combined to force the early leaders of industrialization to focus on improving production over improving collaboration. Because those leaders put their attention on mechanistic solutions to business problems, we now find our modern organizations encountering the same hurdles—though in far different forms—that our ancestors had to overcome in the distant past.

Our Ancestral Heritage

As the velocity of commerce and its associated information increased with the Industrial Age, organizations adopted command-and-control approaches to save and catalogue as much descriptive data as they could. Both communication among the holders of knowledge and the verbal sharing of information were deemphasized as business captains focused on worker specialization, even through most of the 20th century. Creating and meeting ever-growing demand were regarded as marketing, production, and distribution problems, not knowledge problems; hence, little ...

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