One of the most shocking statements I ever heard was we would have to recreate the lunar program if we ever did it again. Bits of knowledge disappeared as each person on the program left, retired, or passed on. Enterprises today are trying to capture that knowledge as their workforce retires. Yet we are still so afraid to use the term knowledge management. Yet it all exists and it works. With knowledge management I rediscovered a secret program from 1903 of the Finnish government in exile to create an army to retake their country.
Knowledge Management has fallen so far out of favor that AIIM no longer includes Knowledge Management in their glossary. Knowledge management (KM), as defined on Wikipedia, comprises a range of strategies and practices used in an organisation to identify, create, represent, distribute, and enable adoption of insights and experiences. In fact, Wikipedia is the best example of a Knowledge Management tool.
Who and Why?
My rediscovery started as a sort of soul searching process over many sleepless nights. I just decided to start researching my heritage. I had heard stories or pieces of stories from here and there. But I never had things in perspective. Perspective was something I recognized when an uncle voiced his disappointment about not being able to trace the family tree past 1498. I told him something all American school children knew, “In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” It was then he realized how far he went back. So being comfortable with blogging, I took on the challenge of capturing pieces of Finnish migration history and creating a blog putting these stories in historical perspective. I call it FinnishNotDone.
I decided to look at Finnish migration into North America. I thought it was a good solid start and a good challenge for me. I read Finnish very slowly. But what I didn’t realize then was I was going to go back in history. I couldn’t copy what others had done because there wasn’t enough perspective for me. For instance the first Finn in Alaska gets mention in the US Library of Congress as:
Possibly the first Finn to have reached Alaska was a carpenter, Aleksanteri Kuparinen, who accompanied a group of Russian Orthodox monks locating on Kodiak Island in 1794.
I wanted to know how he got there and why he went. My post ended up being eleven paragraphs on, “The First Finn in Alaska.”
To find this I had to not only search the pages of the web, but digitized books from multiple library sources. And two languages were not enough. In 1794, Finland was an autonomous country under Russia. I was searching Russian documents as well. Soon I was visiting international Google sites which set priority to content from those countries. But English searches gave English results. So next I was using Google Translate to convert my English terms into Russian. Then it became easy to add Google Books into the mix. (While I used Google, it wasn’t my only source, just the easiest way to represent everything I used.)
I also had to play with search terms. It wasn’t as simple as dropping a name. The number of hits that came back was crazy. I had to think of concepts and relationships. Who were the monks in 1794? Why were the monks going to Kodiak Island? From those relationships new key terms emerged, like the Russian port used for exploring Alaska was in Okhotsk. It was amazing what I could find.
My Knowledge Management Initiative
So along the way I started learning new things that I had never even heard of before. Then I ran into pieces of puzzles that just didn’t make sense. It was in one case where I was looking at “utopian communities” that one of searches returned a community whose founder had the name of a prominent politician and business man, rather than the usual random individual. The timing was interesting too. So I started my targeted research. The tale it indicates is interesting and oddly fit into history and …
During the waning days of Russian rule over Finland in 1903, the tzar tried to regain control. Through attempts to silence opposition, politician, military leaders, and outspoken businessmen were exiled. One of those men was Eero Erkko, a newspaperman. Upon his exile, he made his way to the U.S. and then onward to Cuba where he purchased land to create a Finnish army. While recruiting, situations in Finland changed few ever used the base. Thought a few exiled soldiers did visit the location.
Represent & Distribute
My complete post, “Erro Erkko – A Finn in Havana” is on my other blog www.FinnishNotDone.com. I have organized it with, another Knowledge Management tool, WordPress’s categories where I have created a timeline in addition to regular categories.
I have no idea of how many hours of sleep I lost. Nor do I know how many hours I will lose in the future. I don’t even know how many posts I will end up writing. That’s the interesting part about knowledge. But with this blog I look to help others journey down this same path to the past.
Now that the raw bits of information, or data, are out there in digital form it’s going to be easier to rediscover knowledge from them. Unfortunately the tools to make this easier are not there, but maybe someday they will be there again.