SMART Letter #19
April 18, 1999



             SMART Letter #19 - April 18, 1999

            Copyright 1999 by David S. Isenberg

      At we accumulate intellectual capital

           the old fashioned way -- we LEARN it. -- -- 1-888-isen-com




>  Know-why: the 'open source' of intellectual capital

>  Quote of note: Peter Drucker

>  My own private Clue Train

>  Snapshots of the late pre-communications age

>      #1. Squandering Knowledge

>      #2. Be my guest, but don't hog the phone

>      #3. Sprint non-Sense

>  Conferences on my Calendar, Copyright Notice, Administrivia



by David S. Isenberg

David Weinberger, perpetrator of The Journal of the Hyperlinked 

Organization (, one of the knowledge 

cognoscenti (that's a know-know), and a SMART Person too, 

writes that that there are three types of knowledge: 

(1) patterns that we mine from life's data, 

(2) know-how, which is knowing what to do about the patterns we 

find, e.g., so we don't skin our knuckles a *third* time, and 

(3) ideas. (see "Knowledge versus Ideas," JOHO, April 10, 1999.)

He's right, and there's a fourth kind -- "know-why."  

(Buckminster Fuller coined the term "know-why," I think, 

in a spare moment between designing his Dymaxion Car and 

formulating another theorem of spherical trigonometry. 

Talk about a knowledge worker!)

Know-why works like this:  Your significant other asks you to 

get potatoes at the corner store.  But suppose you get to the

store, and they're out of potatoes.  Without know-why, you might 

return home empty-handed.  But if you knew why s/he sent you for 

spuds, you could assess alternatives.  Suppose s/he's just plain 

hungry; then Triscuits or apples would substitute.  Or suppose s/he 

wants a starch dish for tonight's meal, then squash or rice could 

suffice.  Or if s/he had a jones for French fries, you might 

find some pre-cuts in the freezer section, or get some pre-cookeds 

at McDonalds.  In each case, knowing why determines a different 

way to handle the unanticipated condition.


In the knowledge economy, "Our's is not to reason why," is obsolete

and counterproductive.  Keeping your nose to the grindstone makes 

your nose sharp but dulls your mind. 


A good knowledge worker is a whys-ask.

A company without "know-why" needs management, rules, procedures,  

and ISO 9000.  A company that has "know-why" can leave much of the

"how" to individual employees and small teams.  This is why having 

a real "mission" and a real "vision" are important. They define "why."

There is a "know-why" shortage, which is why most mission/vision 

statements have all the grace and skill of Isenberg trying to dance 

ballet. (I consider "two left feet" to be an absurdly understated 

politeness.)  Missions and visions would pirouette on arpegios 

of informed teleokinesis if their authors had "know-why."


One of the reasons that "know-why" is in such short supply 

in Korporate Amerika these days is that the *real* "why" for many 

companies is, "To grease the palms of our officers and absentee 

stockholders while making our employees work ever harder for less 

and less."  Or the ever popular, "To make the boss look good."  

Or even, "To be bought by Microsoft." 

Of course, no company with a P.R department would ever put these 

"whys," however honest, in their annual report, 

so we get tired, familiar, meaningless corpo-jargon.

Maybe companies should be required to disclose their REAL 

mission/vision in their annual report.  Then the Securities and 

Exchange Commission could audit the teleological capital (the 

accumulated know-why) of every company.  Discrepancies between 

stated know-why and actual employee know-why could be punished 

under fraud laws.  Yeah, right. In my dreams. 


But seriously, show me a company where employees know why their 

company exists, know why they are working there, one that has 

real goals with respect to humanity, and I'll show you a 

good investment and a great place to work.


QUOTE OF NOTE: Peter Drucker

"I never predict. I just look out the window and see what's

visible -- but not yet seen."  Peter F. Drucker in Forbes,

March 10, 1997 (Interview by Robert Lenzner & Stephen S. Johnson).



by David S. Isenberg

The Cluetrain Manifesto (, is a 95-point, 

in-your-face (but essentially correct) polemic about how 

the Internet is changing businesses, markets, advertising,

and our work & social lives.  It is authored by four SMART

people; Rick Levine, Chris 'Rageboy' Locke, Doc Serls, 

and David Weinberger.  The name comes from an unidentified 

informant who said that the Clue Train had been stopping at 

his company regularly, but nobody had been taking delivery.

At first, Cluetrain seemed to me too rude to change anything.  

It disses fence-sitters. It does not allow an innocent, 

"Gosh, really?" without interrupting, "It's obvious, you 

stupid idiot!"

Tom Petzinger, who devoted his April 9, 1999, Wall Street 

Journal column to Cluetrain, told me that a manifesto 

is to rally the converted.  But, if I may be so bold as 

to assume that I am one of the converted, 

Cluetrain got in *my* face too.

Early in my career as a Prosultant(sm), I had the good luck to

read the Autobiography of Will Rogers.  People "got" Rogers, 

and even paid to hear him, for two reasons (IMHO). First, he was 

able to see through "the role" to "the individual" -- that's why 

he said "I never met a man I didn't like," about Stalin, of all 

people.  Second, he could point out the absurdities of life in 

plain language that made people laugh.

So, for example, he'd talk about "a dumb guy with an argument . . .

he don't think there can be any other side but his." And then

he went on, " . . . never disagree with a man while you are

facing him.  Go around behind him and look the same way he

is looking and you will see that things look different from what

they do when you are facing him."  (Got it, cluesters?)

And he said, "Any man that thinks that Civilization has advanced 

is an egotist." ( . . . as we think, "The Net changes everything.")

And he said, " . . . the great secret of show business -- learn[]

when to get off. It's the fellow that knows when to quit that the

audience wants more of."  (95 points? Gimme a break.)

When I give my Stupid Network talk, I begin by asking people

to put aside their "corporate identity" and listen to me as

"individuals caught up in, or driving, the Communications 

Revolution."  Then I pause, and "observe" that everybody just 

gained 10 IQ points.  I remind them that in five years the company 

they work for might not exist, but communications will still be 

valuable, and they'll still have good jobs.

As I close, I ask them, as individuals, to "Fight on the right 

side of the Communications Revolution."  They might have to 

go back to their hold-back-the-future RBOC job after my talk, 

so I try to give them a little reminder that can sit on their

shoulder and whisper in their ear.


SMART Person Janice Gjertsen says, "Corporations change one 

individual at a time."  I'd like to change one individual 

at a time too.

Nevertheless, when I see so many people talking about the 

Cluetrain Manifesto, when I observe the creative thinking 

that lots of people are doing post-Cluetrain, I'm beginning to 

think of the irritant in oysters that makes pearls.

(Prosultant is a service mark of, inc.)



#1.  Squandering Intellectual Capital

I recently bumped into an old friend who is a fairly

senior person at a Really Big Old Company.  He was going

to a professional meeting that was directly relevant to his 

job -- on his vacation time, at his own expense.  His 

boss's boss is a 30+ year company man who reports directly 

to the CEO. Mr. Boss-boss had determined, with no input from my

friend, that he "didn't need to go."  My friend has a PhD in a

hard science and has advanced through the ranks strongly, but 

today his official duties mostly entail making powerpoints.  

Looks like nobody's gonna meet this Clue Train, either . . .

#2.  Be my guest, but don't hog the phone.

The Atlanta Airport Hilton has begun charging $.75 a minute

for local or toll-free calls that exceed half an hour.  This

new policy is aimed at bending people's new, Internet-shaped

calling patterns to match the hotel's PBX capacity.

They're treating the symptom, not the problem.  It would be

so much better to bypass the inappropriate circuit-access

system altogether, giving hotel guests always-on packet access

that would make them feel *welcome* at the Hilton.


With the Hilton fix, you can always log off at 29 minutes and 

call in again.  The real problem comes when you are trying

to get through to Microsoft-on-hold, where if you hang up at

29 minutes you lose your place in the cue.  (I was trying to

deal with the Happy99 virus at the time.)

There is an immediate solution available to the 

Internet-dependent traveler.  Choose another hotel.

(Anybody else having phone problems in hotels?  

Tell me about it --

#3.  Sprint Non-Sense

As a 12-year AT&T veteran, I took a walk on the wild side and 

switched to Sprint. It took two months. I'm sorry I did, 

and I hope to never have to do it again.

I signed up for Sprint Sense Home Office, which would let me 

unify my business calling on one bill, including the line 

into my assistant's home and 888-isen-com, at $.10/min.  

I filled out the form at the Sprint web site and hit "send."


Several days passed, and nothing happened.  I called to ask 

about the status of my order.  Sprint didn't know about any order.

I told the attendant that I submitted it via the Internet and 

she transfered me to the Earthlink people, who could sell me an 

Internet account, but didn't know squatola about my Web order

for phone service.

So I called again, submitted the order again, via voice, in

real time, to a human being.  Weeks passed.  I called 00#

and got the AT&T Operator, indicating that I was not yet

switched.  I made more calls, spent countless time on hold, 

and with much faxing to and fro Sprint figured out 

that the reason that I was still PICed to AT&T was that Bell 

Atlantic had a PIC freeze on my numbers.  (You'd think they'd 

call about this right away if they *really* wanted my business.) 


There was still no movement towards switching 888-isen-com, 

so I re-entered that process.  Meanwhile, I got my first Sprint 

bill, which was incomprehensible.  Its a good thing for them 

that I am a telco nerd; a regular guy with above average 

intelligence would never have gotten to the cheese at the end 

of this two-month long maze.

By the by-line, I put on my columnist hat and called Sprint Media

Relations about the episode.  With admirable candor, they told

me that submitting a change order to a Local Exchange Company (LEC)

is a completely open-loop process -- Sprint throws it over the wall 

to the LEC and never checks again.  Furthermore, when somebody 

submits a service order via Sprint's Web Site, they said, it goes 

to some office where it is faxed "in several days" to somebody who 

can do something about it.  E-commerce, ya gotta love it.

Now I *can't*wait* to get Sprint's ION service!



May 23-26, 1999, Washington DC. 7x24 EXCHANGE 1999 

Spring Conference. 7x24 is a non-profit consortium that 

is devoted to always-on facilities of all kinds.  Today

they're weighted towards electric power and financial

services industries, but they want and need more telecom

involvement.  It could be a great forum for us to

learn about reliability from individuals with similar

practices in different industries.  I'll be giving 

the keynote, on Tuesday, May 25, on "Reliability and

the Stupid Network."  For more information, contact

Joe Paladino, 212-575-2275,, website


September 27-29, 1999, Lake Tahoe CA. George Gilder's

TELECOSM!  Save these dates . . . I'm putting a high-level

panel together on The Stupid Network.  For more information,




Redistribution of this document, or any part of it, is

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the two lines below are reproduced with it:

Copyright 1999 by David S. Isenberg -- -- 1-888-isen-com


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David S. Isenberg, inc.  

1-888-isen-com            1-908-654-0772

** -- the brains behind The Stupid Network


Date last modified: 19April 99