The Perils of Tribal Knowledge

Even when tribes were small and their activities were few and basic – when food, clothing, and shelter were your only concerns, all day, every day – “tribal knowledge” posed serious problems. 20,000 years later, in spite of all our so-called advances, many of us still get far too much of our information by way of tribal knowledge.

Tribal knowledge – known as “oral tradition” once upon a time – still exists in the form of storytelling. Before there was drawing, painting, language, writing, and counting, all knowledge was in the mind. And just as no two minds are alike and no two lives are exactly the same, that knowledge – memory – had a way of disappearing.


It wasn’t absolute – it changed over time. What was known to one person may be unknown to another, or they might know it in a different way. People could not tell exactly the same story a second or a third time. Successes could not be repeated and failures could not be avoided.

“The definition of insanity is ‘doing the same thing as before but expecting a different result’.”
Albert Einstein

Tribes had to improve their lot in order to survive. But how?

If you follow me, that’s where we’re going in the next four weeks. Through the eyes of an allegorical tribe from eons ago, we’ll see how by recording, or documenting, events and deeds and doing something with that information, we’re able to gradually and continually improve the quality of our lives and those around us.

See you next week.


We help small businesses improve their efficiency and effectiveness. Whether you're selling a product or a service, we'll show you how you can improve product and service quality, effectively and affordably. If you need quality, environmental, or health & safety management but can't afford a full-time manager or staff, call on Q9C and we'll pick up the slack. For information or a quote, call or write. Subscribe to the Q9C blog while you're at it.

Tagged with: , , , , ,
Posted in Measurement and Analysis, Monitoring, Performance improvement, Process improvement, Quality improvement, Risk Management

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: