If you are a traditionalist you’ll know that January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany in the Western Church, is the day for giving up and giving away. It is the day to give up your Christmas finery, packing it away until next December. It also is the Day of the Three Kings, when people give away gifts to commemorate the gifts offered by the kings. In Louisiana, today is the beginning of the Mardi Gras season — a time of fun and frivolity before the somberness of Lent.
A favorite food during this period of celebration in Louisiana is the King Cake. For those of you who haven’t sampled this delicacy before, Wikipedia provides the following description:
In southern U.S.A., the tradition was brought to the area by colonists from France and Spain. King cake parties in New Orleans are documented back to the eighteenth century.It has become customary in the New Orleans culture that whoever finds the trinket must provide the next king cake.The king cake of the New Orleans Mardi Gras tradition comes in a number of styles. The most simple, said to be the most traditional, is a ring of twisted bread similar to that used in brioche topped with icing or sugar, usually colored purple, green, and gold (the traditional Carnival colors) with food coloring. Some varieties have filling inside, the most common being cream cheese followed by praline. Popular bakeries such as Gambino’s, Haydel, and Randazzo, feature original recipes and types of king cakes.
The King Cake is a wonderful metaphor for pragmatic knowledge management. Just yesterday I thanked a colleague for his contribution to one of our knowledge management systems and in response he told me that his team had been able to complete their project in record time because another colleague had made an earlier helpful contribution to the same knowledge management system. In other words, the first contribution was the trinket in the King Cake. The lawyer who found it then stepped up to make a contribution of his own. When things work this way, knowledge sharing increases exponentially and knowledge managers have to spend less time helping skeptical lawyers understand “what’s in it for me.”
Best wishes for a great season of Epiphany. I hope you and your colleagues enter into the generous spirit of the season.