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In Memoriam: Larry Prusak, A Luminary in Knowledge Management

As someone who lectures on Knowledge Management at multiple universities, I often jest that KM, a nascent discipline, can be encapsulated in a single historical lesson. Larry Prusak undeniably holds a pioneering role in this narrative, illuminating our understanding of KM and offering practical methods for its implementation within organizations.

The 1995 seminal work, "The Knowledge-Creating Company," by Nonaka and Takeuchi, was inspirational yet lacked actionable tools for immediate implementation, focusing on the specificities of Japanese culture.

It wasn't until 1998 that Larry Prusak and Thomas Davenport released "Working Knowledge," providing a wealth of answers to our lingering questions. To highlight a couple:

  1. To whom should the Knowledge Manager ideally report, and what are the merits of each option?

  2. How does data transition into information through the 'Five Cs' of Contextualization, Categorization, Calculation, Correction, and Condensation, and subsequently, how does this information become knowledge via the 'Four Cs' of Comparison, Consequences, Connections, and Conversations?

Despite serving as an executive at IBM, then the leading IT firm, Prusak consistently emphasized that the key to KM lies in an organization's culture.

Around 2003, Larry Prusak visited Israel, and local KM leaders, including myself, were invited to an intimate brunch in his honor. Expecting a towering figure, I was momentarily taken aback as a humble gentleman in a casual hat walked in. Yet, once he began speaking, he left us in awe. He was, without question, the intellectual patriarch of our field.

My esteemed colleague Dr. Annie Green and I recently discussed speakers for our upcoming KMGN round table. She regretfully informed me that after speaking with Larry, he could not join due to illness. We were then unaware that it would be our final opportunity to learn from him, hosting him at such an event.

In closing, Larry, your teachings have shaped us and tasked us with a significant responsibility. We are committed to picking up the mantle and leading the way in the evolution and advancement of this invaluable discipline for the greater good of society. Your legacy will live on through the work we continue to undertake. May you Rest in Peace.

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