Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Knowledge and the rule of law

I am, without in any way being an expert in the topic, co-author of book on trust. All in all I'm pretty comfortable with how the book has turned out. In reviewing early drafts however, the publisher's panel of expert readers generally didn't think much of it. They questioned the academic underpinnings of its thesis. They cited sources they claimed were acknowledged to own the topic. And with these they compared it dismissively if not damningly. The warning was as clear as it was ironic: trust is a subject for the experts who own it; it is already owned. In other words, trust me I'm an expert.

The realities of trust are quite the opposite. Ownership of knowledge inevitably damages trust. The relationships trust feeds on are put at risk by it. Our book's clear contribution to civilization lies in explaining how this risk can be dealt with. And, although it is given a business/management context, its application, in terms of human activity and relationships, is universal. Whatever the context, ownership of knowledge is no basis on which to build a relationship. One of the many reasons why I abhor ownership of knowledge is that it invariably, seamlessly becomes the platform for experts ' twenty-twenty hindsight - post hoc ergo propter hoc - and the retention of office by unworthy people . Which brings me to Soham by way of Baghdad.

John Smith