It came up very naturally while working with a client.  No one knew why, but knowledge had disappeared.  The users of a software application didn’t know why they had to fill in certain information and the technology folks didn’t understand anything about the work.

Mutual mystification was born.

Organizations have many things to blame for this dilemma.  Outsourcing and functional separation of work certainly are at the top of the list.  We shouldn’t exclude loss of knowledge from down-sizing and getting rid of the expensive workers (usually the ones that have knowledge).

Management often believes that knowledge can be replaced by technology and I have never found that to be the case.  Written procedures, scripts and knowledge databases are used to replace wisdom with damaging consequences.

It is hard to find what we used to call “superusers” those people that understand both the work and the technology.  Everything has been boiled down to a process that workers are required to follow and if they don’t they will be written up by the process police or the inspection imbeciles.  This has created a culture of workers leaving their brains at home.  Sounds like a fun place to work, doesn’t it?

Many service organizations lose business from customers because it is so hard to find workers with knowledge.  The technology has dumbed down the worker.  Instead customers are passed around in hopes of finding someone with knowledge.  Woe to the customer that has a complicated problem as specialists can shed light on a piece of the problem.  But many times require the customer to be transferred  and then put the pieces together to get an answer.

In our age of technology, knowledge has been lost.  It will require great effort on the part of service organizations to eliminate it mutual mystification.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for  Download free from “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at LinkedIn at