Why don’t they…?

By Gordon Rugg

Robert Heinlein, the science fiction writer, once observed that the answer to any question beginning “Why don’t they—“ is almost always “money”.

It’s a great line, and rewriting it feels faintly like vandalism. However, as often happens with humour, it contains a lot of truth, but subtly misses a more important point. To avoid spoiling a great line for Heinlein fans, I’ve put my dissection of this line beneath the fold.

If you ask a researcher why they don’t do something, the answer usually isn’t “money”. It’s usually “time”. The underlying principle is the same; the reason is lack of resources. Resources take various forms – sometimes money, sometimes time, sometimes raw materials.

One thing that’s seldom listed under “resources” is “knowledge”. However, it’s often a key missing resource. Problems often happen because the people involved didn’t have the key knowledge or skills.

So how can you know which knowledge and skills are needed for a particular situation? That raises the concept of a knowledge audit.

Why haven’t I blogged about that yet? The humorous answer to that is “Time”…

I’ll be returning to this theme when I’ve finished blogging about the conceptual toolkit that’s needed to describe a knowledge audit. Next on the stack is an article about STROBE, a technique for systematically observing an environment.




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