Infestation is seldom the mother of invention, but the latest breakthrough to emerge from Bray Enterprises owes its existence to an outbreak of head lice in our research labs. While our administrator, Louise, was administering a carbolic shampoo-and-set to our chief technology officer (Fred), he remembered an old Tomorrow's World programme he'd seen, featuring a plant that read people's brainwaves as they entered a building.
If a plant can do it, why not a head louse, reasoned Fred? So, as Louise put in the curlers, he invented the head crawler. This, we are sure, will be the solution to the problem of tacit knowledge - all that stuff people know about how they do their jobs and how the organisation works, but don't share with anyone else, so as to make themselves indispensable.
We already use Web crawlers to find and index information on the Web.
The head crawler will do the same for what's in people's heads. The prototypes are real lice, rescued from the carbolic, with microchip scanners glued to their backs. There was a slight hiccup during testing, when a careless de-bug killed our entire stock, but we're now ready.
We wanted to call the product The Louse With Intelligence Inside, but that was too long for an arthropod, so it's called LouIse. (We expected Louise to be proud to have a louse named after her and were truly shocked by her ingratitude.)
We've aimed to combine the best aspects of both the Web crawler and the creepy-crawly. Like a Web crawler, LouIse will scour the whole head at roughly monthly intervals and index everything it finds, regardless of propriety or usefulness. This means your tacit knowledge index may include things you'd rather have kept hidden, like your fetish fantasies and your true opinion of the boss. But we're sure the competitive advantage will outweigh the inconvenience. At least it will make golden handcuff deals a lot cheaper.
Also like a Web crawler, LouIse will index things that are no longer there - including the memory of what you did at the Christmas party, or the phone number of that lucrative prospect. This will bring in one of the holy grails of knowledge management, by helping you know what you don't know. (Unfortunately, it won't help you remember it.)
In what ways is LouIse like a real louse? Well, it will suck your lifeblood, cause stress and itchiness, and generally make you feel lousy - about your career prospects at least.
There are drawbacks, of course. There's a performance degradation while scanning, so we advise users not to drive heavy machinery, give presentations or change their Windows wallpaper while LouIse is at work.
Some luddites have suggested LouIse is an invasion of privacy. But heck, now that our PCs contain more cookies than a biscuit barrel, and chip makers are putting serial numbers on all our processors, who gives a toss about privacy?
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