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“Reboot” Your Knowledge Management Program

(Or Three lessons KM programs can learn from the Hollywood movie making machine)

Most of you will know that in computerese, reboot means to turn (a computer or operating system) off and then on again; to restart it.  Of course if we’re applying this definition to a failed knowledge management program simply restarting the OS will produce the same results - not what we are interested in.  So what if instead of the technology definition, we applied the Hollywood definition of “reboot’?

Hollywood has always done adaptations of books for TV and movies.  To me the classic Hollywood basic reboot or remake is one in which you try to take everything that's iconic about the series/movie and try to weave it into a new story with a new and modern style.  In some cases you toss out a lot of the old and simply start over - or “reboot” the franchise.

Pardon the geek-boy comic and SciFi (or is that now SyFy) references, but the three reboots that immediately come to my mind are Battlestar Galactica, The Incredible Hulk and The Thunderbirds.

Battlestar Galactica was a TV show that aired in 1978 and starred Lorne Greene, Richard Hatch and Dirk Benedict.  It was rebooted in 2003.  While Hollywood changed many things in the new version, the most significant was the change up of the characters.  The reboot didn’t respect the original characters, using none of the original cast and even going as far to change up the race and genders of two of them (Poor Starbuck and Boomer!).

Next up on our list of movie reboots involves the Incredible Hulk.  I won’t even bother to go back as far as the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno TV show (which itself contained significant departures and reboots from the original comic book), but rather focus on the 2003 movie and then the fairly quick 2005 reboot.  It would be fair to say that the 2003 Hulk movie bombed.  So what did Hollywood do?  Basically they just ignored the first version and started over.  Switched directors.  Switched all the actors.  The old plot and story line? Forget it.  Do something new, pretend the old never happened.

Perhaps a bit more obscure to some of you, there is the fantastic Thunderbirds!  The Thunderbirds was the brainchild of Gerry Andersen.  Developed in the mid 1960s for British television, it used marionette puppetry (Supermarionation) to follow the exploits of the International Rescue organization and their super high tech rescue equipment.  In 2004 Jonathan Frakes (yes Number 1 himself) directed the movie reboot of the venerable show.  Most notable here was the switch from puppets to live actors, and all the hi-tech equipment received a much needed facelift and upgrades (although one could argue that FAB 1 changing from a Rolls Royce to a Ford was a huge demotion).  The technology was now shinier, more modern and simply cooler.

So how do we get away from the SyFy geekdom and apply the same Hollywood approaches in Battlestar Galactica, The Incredible Hulk and The Thunderbirds to a failed KM program? Each has something it can contribute to help us “reboot”. 
Like was done in Battlestar Galactica, change out or replace your actors (or as you might call them in the daylight hours, your firm’s partners/sponsors).  Don’t be afraid to be bold.  Look for some fresh faces.  Look for someone with a modern view, look for someone who can bring more energy or more believability to the role. Maybe that means trying a different practice area or office from where you first started.  People are the most important part of you program.  Leading those people in the direction of an effective KM program is equally important.

What do we learn from the Hulk?  “Hulk smash KM program!” of course.  OK seriously, this is what the Hulk reboot teaches us: Don’t be afraid to forget what went on before and simply start over.  Rethink your program from start to finish.  Sometimes even the best intentions and most well meaning programs are a misfit.  It might be the culture, the times, or any one of hundreds of factors that derail it.  The plot and story line of your KM program (i.e. processes and procedures) is, arguably, the second most important part of your program. 

Even though it was probably my most favorite show (and yes I actually have a model of Thunderbird 2 in my car), the reboot advice from the Thunderbirds should be the last applied to your program.  Why?  Because technology is the last of the components of a successful KM program.  But as with the Thunderbirds, look to refresh your technology.  I am not sure the same tool or software with a new sleeker look will carry you quite as far as a redesigned Thunderbird 2, but reevaluate the tools you’ve initially put in place with a critical eye.  Make it as shiny and slick.  Want to add a coolness factor - open up a portion of it to the iPhones that all your attorneys are carrying (I am sure there is an app for that).  Are you expecting too much from the software?  Maybe you need to FAB 1 it and focus on the more important parts.

I feel like I should sign off this post with a hearty “Excelsior!”  But as that is Stan the Man’s trademark, I’ll simply say “All comments welcomed!”


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