From card weaving To computers, the value of institutional knowledge in leadership
Dorothea Mordan’s Good Day Neighbor Column 3/2023.
Weaving has been used by humans for thousands of years. Through the Middle Ages weaving was all done by hand. Then came the Industrial Age with inventions such as the Jacquard loom, patented in 1804. Joseph Marie Jacquard, building on earlier inventions, created a system of punch cards to control mechanical weaving. A hole in the punch card would hold a warp thread in place. No hole and the thread would lift, allowing the weft thread to be alternately visible and invisible, thus creating a pattern. Ordered placing of one vertical thread over/under a horizontal thread makes any pattern possible. This mechanical function made organization of any sort of information possible. On/off, zeros and ones, the construct of computer data.
The path to our modern computer wizardry started over one hundred years before anyone reading this was born.
The impact of computers on human thinking is endless. Computation tools for medicine, farming, data management, distribution of food and other necessities, organizational systems for our lives-automobile manufacture, bus, train and plane schedules. Society’s elders have seen such transitions over the course of decades — institutional knowledge of work and life.
Youth in any era are raised with existing inventions, and always push their elders to make way for the new. That’s how it should be, progress is healthy. Anyone who makes it to their 30’s, 40’s and beyond starts to see the links in the chain of progress, and learns that new ways of doing things come from experience, trial and error. Often, more is learned from error than success.
Late 20th and early 21st century kids are increasingly raised in a society where necessities come to you by knowing what buttons to push and which store has food. It’s a hard lesson when grandma takes you out to the garden to grow something — a bridge to understanding where we find food. Career employees with institutional knowledge of a company are bridges of understanding for young adults entering the work force.
All people want something, and at the same time they share the need for life sustaining food, water, and shelter. The elder politicians in our democratic system know the value of change over time. Change that comes from learning how things are done, listening to what people want, and understanding the…