The Perils of Tribal Knowledge, Part Two

It was long ago, before so-called civilization reared its ugly head. Our tribe needed only to take care of the basics – food, shelter, and clothing. Every day was a struggle for survival.

Our tribe learned only by doing and surviving. Feeling hungry? Catch a critter, pick some berries — if you didn’t die in the process of hunting or eating, it was a good day. There were many more bad days than good, though. Their hunger could get quite intense or they could starve if they went too long between successful hunts. (Our tribe could also be the hunted but for now, we’ll stick with their search for food.)

One day, one of our tribesmen — I’m calling him “Bob”, for one of my uncles — goes on a hunt from sunup to sundown but catches nothing. Bob doesn’t understand; he went to the same spot where he’d killed a goat a week earlier. Then, there were several goats to choose from and Bob killed the largest; this time, there were no goats. Not one, even though Bob waited patiently from when the sun was high in the sky until it disappeared on the other side of his world. Not just no goats to be seen — not one whiff of a goat, either. Extremely tired and a little hungrier than he was when he started the hunt, Bob returned to his little tribe, empty-handed.

The next day, Bob got an earlier start, hoping to change his fortune. In the place where he’d been hunting for goats, Bob happened to meet up with someone from a different tribe (I’m calling him “Bud”, after another uncle of mine), also looking for a goat. At the same moment, Bob and Bud decided that pooling their resources and skills — Bob was bigger, faster, and more aggressive, while Bud was smaller, stealthier, and a better climber — might produce a better result.

Together, Bob and Bud get no food the first day but it was a good learning experience for both. The next day, they caught a couple of good-sized goats. The day after that was when their respective tribes asked them to describe their hunt. Luckily for everyone, Bud was a pretty fair artist. He drew the story of their hunt on a rock.

PTK part 2

Bob and Bud then began to describe the process of the hunt and thanks to Bud’s artistic ability, they had a lasting record of the hunt. Here was a reference, a training tool — knowledge sharing. From that point, the hunting process could be repeated indefinitely, and with more consistent results than had ever been possible. Thanks to Bob and Bud, their tribes prospered and began to flourish.

With growth, however, came problems neither tribe anticipated. Next week, we’ll look at some of those problems.

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Posted in Better communication, Education and Training, Risk Management

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