I was visiting with Michael Mufson, a fellow Hampshire College grad who I haven't been in close touch with but always thought of as close-by in terms of cultural artifacts, life views, moral compass, etc. He mentioned how a former Hampshire Drama Professor (and marginal mentor) of his had thrown cold water on the idea that theater students receive any strong vocational backing for their tuition investments. Her point was a numbers game: how many theater majors become full-time actors. Now scale that argument to any creative profession in the age of cost-free content and we know where we stand. All the pithy patter in the world won't keep the lights on without the rationale that we leave more value than we take away.
On one hand it's an open-shut argument and it's a closed loop that predates starving artists. There are word people and numbers people and it's the liberal arts folks who put all their marbles on those graduate programs for crawling back into the job market. The engineers and the number-crunchers? They speak the language of cause-and-effect. Communications schmoomications -- the numbers tell the story.
But not all learning answers to the lessons of self preservation -- regardless of our personal economics. My son, for instance, just completed his second summer of theater camp with the US Performing Arts group out of San Francisco. He spent the entire year in between sessions reliving what a great first experience he had with an eye towards going back. The verdict? The second year eclipsed the first. It's not about boosting his professional prospects for acting. It's not even about the 5:1 girl to guy ratio, proving that the age of alpha males has passed for basking in a harem of girl power. It's not even about the breath of independence he takes in when needing to make spot decisions on his own.
The real power of his theatrical experience is about his belief in himself. His theater experience has combined with his own interests, passions and experiences to form his speaking voice, vocal tenor, dance steps, and non-verbal gestures -- that decoding instrument that gets left out of the receptor kits of so many Aspergers students. The point I was trying to make is that theatrical success is not limited to filling up auditoriums or credits in an actor's casting card. It's about finding the balance between a considered pose and an emotionally-charged script with the structure-resistant transitions we all make to adulthood.
In that version Michael Mufson gets to portray the brilliant director he had the confidence in becoming when I first met him. My son too will now have that chance in large part because of his theatrical training -- regardless of whether he ever "works" in the theater or not.
The same could be said for settling my piece with what Andy Partridge calls "rehearsing for the big, square world." I work as a word guy in an office park cube with the knowledge that my brain is calibrated to a song that few can hear and even fewer can monetize -- hence the cube! However for anyone who hates to search the pattern matching prowess of a solid KM guy delivers immediate payback. That benefit is part of a learning process -- not part of a final outcome, i.e. new customer -- I win! My new boss refers to KM as "a channel." This is enlightened leadership tag for functional support two or more steps removed from closing the next deal that we'll still be needing in the deal after that.
I've noticed that process-centric view of knowledge propagation in some recent SIKM discussions where practitioners were bolting their prior KM successes with more fashionable and established corridors of commerce. Carl Frapaolo and Dan Keldsen of Architected are now fusing their domain expertise with workshops targeted to innovation management. Kate Pugh is leveraging her expertise at knowledge harvesting to the legal community as a dispute mediator.
The central theme from all these examples is this -- us word people should take our natural talents to the next level. That's where theater majors, budding novelists, and knowledge expressionists of all abstractions and stripes can paint the big, square world into a corner we can all meet on.