In ancient times alchemists sought to turn base metals into gold, create the elixir of life, and discover the philosopher’s stone. While they may not have achieved these lofty goals, they did lay the foundation for the modern science of inorganic chemistry.
Alchemy is about the art of transformation. So is knowledge management. We help transform disconnected individuals into vital, productive networks. By providing processes and tools that facilitate communication, cooperation and collaboration, we help members of those communities unleash their creativity. So KM is the means, not the end. Our goal is transformation and therein lies true gold.
[Photo Credit: JasonUnbound, Creative Commons license]
I am not sure that I would go so far as to say that we are alchemists, Mary! I think what you are describing (taking raw materials and making something better by combining them) looks more like basic chemistry.
Sometimes turning lead into gold is not what is needed (my guess is that gold is pretty poor as a plumbing material). Instead, what we need is to make a fairly unrefined material useful by perfecting it: like creating steel from iron.
We may be approaching the limits of my metaphor! I agree that we do spend a great deal of time refining the elements we’ve been given, as appropriate to the circumstances. However, I hope that in the process we don’t lose sight of the opportunities for transformation. They may not be quotidian, but I do believe they exist.