Past Meetup

Hear Bill Hall at the Melbourne Knowledge Managers Leaders Forum

This Meetup is past

10 people went


Developing a biological understanding of organizational knowledge

Melbourne KMLF

(Melbourne Emergence members invited to attend)

Wednesday 17 July, 6:00-8.00 PM
RMIT Swanston Academic Building
445 Swanston Street (Room 80.10.07), Melbourne
(gold coin donation for this one)


Gaining his PhD from Harvard as an evolutionary biologist, amongst other career twists and turns, Bill had the opportunity to play with all generations of computer technology, spent two postdoctoral years studying the history and epistemology of his science, and the last 17½ years prior to his redundancy/retirement in July 2007 working for what was for part of that time Australia's largest defence contractor. In his "retirement" Bill is again studying and writing academic papers.

In this latter stage of his career Bill confronted the KM requirements of a large and complex engineering project management and shipbuilding organization head-on as he was involved in the entire span of this company's involvement in completing the $7 BN ANZAC Ship Project to build 10 frigates for Australia (8) and New Zealand (2). In the first 10 years of his employment there, amongst other roles he designed the system for authoring, content management and delivery of the more than 20,000 individual maintenance procedure (including both human and computer readable components) into the relationally-based computerized maintenance management system that still helps keep the ships operational today. Thanks in good part to the successful development and management of the body of knowledge relating to the ships’ engineering, mainitenance and operations, this project finished with every ship delivered on-time, on-budget, with a healthy company profit and happy customers against a stringently fixed-price contract signed in 1989. By around 2000 the major KM issues relating to the ANZAC Project had been solved, and Bill was transferred to corporate Head Office as a KM analyst, where he helplessly watched the rigid command and control hierarchy at the executive and line management levels stifle the problem solving and knowledge sharing culture that produced a uniquely successful outcome for the ANZAC Project. Consequently, Tenix performed so poorly on the next significant project (~$500 M to build 7 smaller and simpler ships to commercial standards) that the owners decided to auction "all or part" the company to get out from under huge cost and schedule overruns.

Bill's experience and frustrations with this company led him to combine the diverse threads from his career in an attempt to understand both theoretically and practically how this beast of a company could at various times during its short life-span be both so good and so bad at managing knowledge that was vital to its existence. Given his background in biology, Bill could not help but to do this from his backgrounds in biology and epistemology. In this talk, Bill will discuss some highlights and lessons learned from his work with a number of students and colleagues, and point to a number of published papers that describe the experiences and findings in more detail. The publications to be discussed are all available on Bill's web site: .

Humans and human social organization - Where did humanity start (a couple of videos showing tool-using groups)

- Adaptation

humans are tool users and makers
knowledge is solutions to problems
tools, cognition and cognitive revolutions

- Genetic vs cultural heredity (mechanisms for knowledge transfer)

Popper’s evolutionary epistemology - Knowledge is constructed – truth cannot be proven
- 3 worlds: subjective and objective knowledge
- General theory of evolution builds knowledge

Autopoiesis - Inseparability of life and knowledge
- Theory of hierarchically complex systems
- Orders of autopoietic systems
- The autopoietic organization
- Determining organizational imperatives

Foundations of organizational knowledge Enterprise Knowledge Architecture