The Geekonomy And Institutional Memory

Geekonomy and Institutional Memory

Ah, Institutional Memory.  If you aren't familiar with this concept, it's basically the knowledge transmitted inside an institution – like a religious organization, club, or business.  In the business and career world, it's vital to preserving process, policies, and appropriate technologies.

In the high-speed Geekonomy I'm starting to wonder if we've got a problem with not having enough of it.  Not enough good business processes, not enough preservation of good ideas and designs, and not enough learning lessons.

Think about every time you looked at an insane game controls scheme and wondered if the designers had learned anything from the last twenty years.  Look at all those times a technology company made a boneheaded maneuver that any other company made decades ago – and learned how to prevent.  Consider every situation where some supposedly innovative new tool or idea had been done to death before.

I think the Geekonomy is having issues with Institutional Memory.

Consider the situations:
1) We have companies forming out of stretch that didn't exist a few years ago – or a few months ago.  In some cases they're doing cutting edge technology so they not only have to invent themselves, they have to re-invent themselves for things that never existed.
2) We have huge amounts of technical churn in todays Geekonomy.  Things change, evolve, and get forgotten.  Companies, people, and organizations not only are inventing and discarding technologies, they may not fully be aware of what they're creating and discarding.
3) We have companies entering spheres of business they didn't do previously.  In many cases, sure they may hire people or acquire companies that have some Institutional Memory.  But as we've seen . . . sometimes they don't.
4) We have sudden onslaughts of interest in various media that were once purely limited to geek culture – games, comics, etc.  Does it seem that the same thing gets re-invented?  Like say the superhero origins that are all the same or the standard game adaptions . . .
5) We have young people going into business and companies that are also new and cutting edge – and they have, despite their talents, not an in-depth idea of the lessons of the past.  They may not belong to the associations or groups others do, or even have had the same experience.

I think you get my point.

For we progeeks, let's keep this in mind – because frankly, I do think this is a problem.  Certainly every time I see the repeat of a lame game design or a company making the same mistake, I wonder if anyone is learning here.

Let's remember that this means for us progeeks:
1) If you're an older geek (like myself), you can't count on Institutional Memory at a job or company.  It may not be there – or you may have to provide it.
2) People that can maintain – and leverage – Institutional Memory will have a real advantage and be valuable in the Geekonomy.
3) Companies that have a strong Institutional Memory and can apply it – and move with the times – will have a serious advantage in the modern economy.  You may want to work there . . .
4) There could be a whole business opportunity for you in working in Institutional Memory for Geekonomy-based companies.  Who maintains process, analyzes lessons learned, ensures communication . . .

Institutional Memory is vitally important for survival of a business, and indeed an economy.  In the Geekonomy, you can keep that in mind as it just might provide you some opportunities . . .

– Steven Savage