You Gotta Manage Knowledge, Savvy?

In a LinkedIn correspondence earlier today with a customer-focused project manager named John Kingston regarding knowledge management, I had an "aha" moment when he pointed out that the French word savoir means knowledge.

I thought, Savoir must be where the slang term savvy originated.

So I looked it up in the Online Etymology Dictionary:

~ Savvy - 1785, as a noun, "practical sense, intelligence;" also a verb, "to know, to understand;" W. Indies pidgin borrowing of Fr. savez(-vous)? "do you know?" or Sp. sabe (usted) "you know," both from V.L. *sapere, from L. sapere "be wise, be knowing" (see sapient).

Could this idea of savvy --the practical street-smarts and wisdom in an organization that facilitate sensemaking-- be a path to a breakthrough in knowledge management?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 04/09/07


Geoff said…
Larry Prusak looks to the Greeks for insight. "They have three words for knowledge: The first word they had was epistime of which we derive the word epistemology. Episteme means universal rules that are always applicable, i.e. science. Quantified knowledge. You can put it in a book, you can put it in a scroll. It’s what the world knows about a subject and it’s universal, it’s documentable, you can study it and it’s easily transmitted.

A second word they had was techne. Of which we of course get the word technology. Techne means somewhat like applied science. It’s the practice of doing things – the day to day way you actually do things; the handy work. Actually making things. It’s what most people do in most organisations. It’s not what professors necessarily do but it’s more what you people do.

Then they had a third word – metis. The only word you’d ever recognise from that is the French word m├ętier And that’s really not what we’re talking about.

Metis is exactly what Ulysses had. It’s exactly the qualities. The word they used which says metis is polythagonal, which means ‘many sided’. Metis means, the closest word I could use after reading is street smart. Shrewd. Cunning. Savvy. Fast decisions. Rapid fire decisions. Synthesis. Intuitive. Judgemental. It’s what politicians know how to do.

You can pick up pointers but it’s not the sort of thing you can learn. But its three different words for knowledge. You see this all over in organisations, don’t you? People who are smart one way, little bit smart the other, not smart one way.

But generally I’d say it’s metis that these people have. Some of them get very good grades, some don’t, some have craft skills, some don’t, but they all have a type of shrewdness, a focused canny, a savvy, a way to get ahead."

Hope this helps your thinking

cheers Geoff
Terrence said…
Hi Geoff,
Glad you found my blog.
The ancient Greeks are still quite helpful.
Thanks for stopping by!

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