Here is an interesting analysis of Genghis Khan, suggesting that an open approach to knowledge acquisition was the Mongol leader's key to success.
|Genghis Khan, image from wikipedis(not a photograph)|
Genghis Khan is one of his more unexpected examples.
Genghis Khan, born in or around 1162, was the founder and Great Khan (Emperor) of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history. He has a reputation for brutality and genocide, but far less of a reputation for Knowledge Management. Ryan Holiday would like to redress this.
As he says:
Not only was Genghis Khan one of the greatest military minds who ever lived, he was a perpetual student, whose stunning victories were often the result of his ability to absorb the best technologies, practices, and innovations of each new culture his empire touched.... with each battle and enemy, [the mongol] culture learned and absorbed something new.
Holiday gives the following examples of Genghis Khan's knowledge acquisition and integration program:
- The concept of splitting his soldiers into groups of ten, taken from neighboring Turkic tribes
- How to attack fortified cities through the use of siege engines, learned from Chinese engineers
- How to hold territories through a hearts-and-minds campaign, learned from campaigns against the Jurched
- How to build cannon, learned from an innovative combination of Chinese gunpowder, Muslim flamethrowers, and European metalwork
He describes how
"in every country or city he held, Khan would call for the smartest astrologers, scribes, doctors, thinkers, and advisers—anyone who could aid his troops and their efforts. His troops travelled with interrogators and translators for precisely this purpose"As the Mongol empire grew, so Khan added to his knowledge, seeking out new ideas that he could put into practice. This openness to learning was one of the factors that enabled Khan's success.
I wonder, how open are today's business Khan's - the CEOs who take over other organisations in order to build their empires? Are they open to learning? Do they have teams of "interrogators and translators" (aka Knowledge Managers) to identify and capture the new knowledge they use in their own business purposes? Do they see each acquisition as a learning opportunity?
Or are they driven by their egos to conduct downsizing exercises (the business equivalent of massacre and genocide) with no thought to the knowledge that will be lost?
Let's not just learn from Genghis Khan; let's learn LIKE Genghis Khan.