The Flood: An Account

I was nearly killed during the drafting of this post.  I hope that some of you out there in Blogland will benefit from my experience.

Part I:  Organic Intelligence

West Greenwich Village, New York City—Monday October 29, 2012 4:00pm ET.  As I draft this, I’m in the middle of readying our downtown, Hudson River-fronting New York apartment for Hurricane Sandy, which by most accounts could be the biggest storm here in, well, recorded history.  Big enough that it could bring over ten feet of storm surge onto our street—and into our duplex apartment, the lower floor of which is partly below ground.

What goes through my mind?  I have to prepare to:  (1) make sure I physically survive (my wife is safely out of town, and my kids are both grown men living in safer places), (2) make sure our cats survive, and (3) make sure our most-prized possessions are out of harm’s way to the extent possible. This is the value hierarchy that guides my actions, sometimes coming down to would I rather save this (camera equipment) or that (books).

How fast do I need to prepare?  That depends on many factors—how fast the storm is moving, when and where it will hit land, how it coincides with tides and the moon cycles, its barometric pressure (which is historically low, lower pressure tending to create a semi-vacuum that essentially sucks the water upwards)…lots of factor all changing at once, and all interacting with each other rapidly and unpredictably.

Kind of like real life in the business world.  While I could be chastised for remaking everything into a metaphor for organizational intelligence, in fact that’s the way I most often view the world.

My intelligence stew

I take in lots of information—ranging from satellite photos being streamed on the Internet, to hallway conversations with building neighbors, and everything in between.  My ‘life partner’ Ellen, though back in Atlanta taking care of her mother, is emailing and calling our neighbors to see what they have heard and what they are doing about it.  It’s all a very kinetic, intuitive, non-deliberate process.  I’m ‘playing by sense of smell’.

I weave it all into a story, a real-time dynamic picture of my situation going forward.  Its choices and payoff tables are very organic, given the ‘value proposition’ I mentioned above.  While not (yet) life-and-death, it’s maybe one rung down on that ladder.

It’s more than a picture, it’s a model of how the various causal factors could interact—many of which I can only monitor and react to, but over which I have little control.  For example, it is rumored that Con Edison has decided to preemptively turn off the power—which so far has not happened, but I’m keeping my batteries charged just in case.

I consider all factors within my sphere of awareness. The most obvious of these, direct observation, is too often overlooked.  I just got in from visiting the river across the street, and am encouraged that now (just after low tide), the river is significantly lower, and not nearly as angry-looking, as it was at high tide this morning.  The wind is picking up, though, and it’s raining moderately.

High tide tonight at 9pm will be the real test, when the full moon will magnify the tide, and the storm is predicted to hit land (though farther south of here.)

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    COMPETING IN THE KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY is written by Timothy Powell, an independent researcher and consultant in knowledge strategy. Tim is president of The Knowledge Agency® (TKA) and serves on the faculty of Columbia University's Information and Knowledge Strategy (IKNS) graduate program.


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