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Journal cover: VINE


ISSN: 0305-5728

Online from: 1971

Subject Area: Information and Knowledge Management

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KM and culture

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Article citation: Francesco A. Calabrese, (2010) "KM and culture", VINE, Vol. 40 Iss: 3/4, pp. -



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Article Type: Guest editorial 2 From: VINE: The journal of information and knowledge management systems, Volume 40, Issue 3/4

About the Guest Editor

Francesco A. Calabrese
Founder/President/CEO of the Enterprise Excellence Management Group, Int’l. Inc. (ExMG), a leadership and enterprise strategies consulting firm. He is an Adjunct Professor in The George Washington University, School of Engineering and Applied Science, specializing at the graduate level in the fields of: transformational enterprise change, leadership, knowledge management, systems engineering, decision support systems, and technology impact analyses; and also serves as Managing Director of GWU’s Institute for Knowledge and Innovation. He has had extensive writings in project and information management methods/tools/techniques; technical reports in geodetic, cartographic, engineering and intelligence systems; authored technical manuals in engineering and guided missiles subject areas; and has recently been publishing in the KM field on cultural behavior influences, system implementation structures, and holistic models and frameworks. A major portion of his 50 plus professional years have been spent in project management and enterprise leadership/mentoring roles. The spectrum embraces government military and civilian service assignments; large corporate full P&L responsibilities for a global 52 site, 2,500 person staff; and individual/small business technical and mentoring consultant/advisor engagements.

Calabrese holds degrees in Civil Engineering, Management, and Systems Engineering. He is a Fellow of the American Society for Engineering Management; a Charter Member of Epsilon Mu Eta, the Engineering Management Honor Society; a Member of Chi Epsilon, the Civil Engineering National Honor Society; and a member of the Order of the Engineer. He is a graduate of Dartmouth University’s Executive Program “Beyond the Bottom Line”; attended two winter sessions at the Jungian Institute on the “Psychology of Human Behavior”; and was a Certified Nuclear Weapons Analyst and the US Army’s Program Manager and Technology Representative for Mapping and Geodesy during the 1960s change management era in moving from ground, sea and air to satellite based technology and processes for acquisition and production of cartographic and geospatial intelligence materials and products.

As a child immigrant being raised in Philadelphia, “culture” was not part of my vocabulary. That is not until I was “expelled” from the first grade. Like so many immigrant families we had been raised as a clan unto ourselves. Two brothers married to two sisters, six children between the two families all sharing one home (rented); no indoor plumbing (standard); an “ice box” for a refrigerator; tomatoes, hot pepper, basil, bean plants in the back yard and a delicious fig bearing tree wrapped in cloth, tar paper, and plastic against the cold of winters. The now famous “Rocky 9th Street Market” with delicious New Jersey garden offerings and “Pat’s Steaks” (off budget, but the aroma was worth many sniffs). The six cousins, virtually genetically identical, with strict but “tough love” parenting. Life was good! – eh?. Who needed any outside influences? Not by the parental standards in that household!

Alas, I never got turned loose on “the street” until the short walk to school, with the stern reminder to mind the teacher, and do good because, “we came here so you children can get an education and a better life!” So why on the third day did the teacher take me by the ear to a big office and then put me back on the street toward home? As Paul Newman’s Cool Hand Luke said:Q Boss, what we have here is a failure to communicate …Understandable since there was no “political correctness” pressuring a first grade teacher at that time to be able to speak Italian, and a dialect version at that. At least that expelling got me out on the street and into the language, and I am not sure I have ever been happier or sought to retreat indoors again.

Like my co-editor, colleague, and friend, Dr Michael A. Stankosky, I have lived, worked, and adapted to the European, North African, and Asian worlds in my years of service in the public, private, and academic sectors. The mid-East, South America, the rest of Africa and Australia are on my “futures” agenda! Throughout my interludes abroad I have sought to live and sample the culture of each place through its people, customs, food, and dress. Textbooks, however eloquent about the similarities of humankind, can never be as effective as the palatable experience of capturing a sense of life with the global tribes of humanity. It comes as no surprise to my colleagues that I am always “up” for helping to mentor visiting scholars from any part of the world, and using them as “guides” to the best local establishments for their native cuisines and as live sources of information on their native language, customs, and culture.

Our knowledge horizons and memory experiences expand with active fulfillment and pursuit of life-long learning. A countryman of mine, arguably perhaps, may have been the first “immigrant” to our hemisphere shores to prove the world was not flat but Columbus’ explorations had to do with the earth’s topological dimension. Leveraging from Michael’s reference, Thomas Friedman’s text makes our world “flat” in the ease of connectivity and global multidimensional linkages which I view as “collaborative encirclement” in a knowledge world context.

The colleagues whose papers are assembled for this special edition form but a sliver of the earth girdling cultures which have graced our space and/or graciously hosted us in their native surroundings. A listing of all the countries where we have shared or plan to share kinship through our common interests in the “Knowledge Management; Theory to Practice Continuum” is an invitation to errors of omission. But with an apology upfront if an omission occurs let me give you a sense for the breadth of “our world”: Barbados; Brazil; Bulgaria; Canada; China; Colombia; Cyprus; France; Hong Kong (China); India; Italy; Japan; Kuwait; Macedonia; Mexico; Pakistan; Peru; Romania; Russia; Saudi Arabia; Slovenia; Taiwan etc. etc.

My immigrant affiliation bias would allow me to commit a much more egregious error if I left the impression that “KM and culture” is purely one of national cultural influences. Turning inward to our own nation we have tangible instances of cultural “divides” in addition to the history of America’s “immigrants melting pot”. A few are:

Viewed in this more segmented aspect the national cultural layer which dominates this facet of KM is analogous to the earth’s atmospheric-topological-hydrological layers – giving us little insights to the core until a natural or human-made event exposes molten lava or runaway gas/oil plumes in our seas. But, our intellectual curiosity must be channeled to continuously learn and speculate on the less known aspects of our continuum. This special edition serves as a rudimentary threshold to that quest.

I have sat on many dissertation defense committees in my 13 years at The George Washington University. I am especially reflective at those where a visiting scholar is defending. I empathize with the tremendous achievement they personify when I think of what it would be like to research, prepare and defend such an undertaking in a language other than the English with which I, and my colleagues, have gained some proficiency. To all “fellow/female humans”: Welcome; come let us share stories and memories together in the language of lifelong learners exchanging “knowledge.” There will be no expulsions here!

Parting thought

Tacit knowledge:
What we didn’t know we knew until we needed to know it …
… and found we could apply it intelligently for measurable results (Calabrese, 2010). Francesco A. Calabrese
Institute for Knowledge and Innovation, The George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA