Thursday, 1 December 2016

The Hippocratic Oath - as applied to the modern learning organisation


Most of us have heard of the Hippocratic Oath - the 2,500 year-old text solemnly recited by newly qualified doctors. I had never actually read it until today. I was struck at how appropriate it is when applied to knowledge sharing and learning in modern organisations.
I have reproduced the oath below, adapted by me for workers in complex, knowledge-based organizations. I have substituted only a handful words (in italics). These replace a few specific medical terms and I have omitted three sentences that are wholly medical in nature. 
  • I will respect the hard-won gains of those colleagues in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.
  • I will apply, for the benefit of my colleagues, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of hubris and nihilism.
  • I will not be ashamed to say "I know not," nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed to solve a problem.
  • I will respect the privacy of my colleagues, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in confidential matters. If it is given me to save a project, all thanks. This responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. 
  • I will prevent decisions that are not based on evidence whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
  • I will remember that I remain a member of the organization for which I work, with special obligations to all my colleagues
  • If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest standards of knowledge and learning and may I long experience the joy of helping those who seek my know-how.
It is almost uncanny how appropriate the Hippocratic Oath is for those working in knowledge-based, modern organisations. However, I am under no illusion that getting knowledge workers to recite this at the time of their annual appraisal will not make the slightest difference.

Credit: The 1964 modern version of the Hippocratic Oath on which this post is based is credited to Professor Dean Lasagne, Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University

Photo credit: Hippocrates by Reubens - Wikipedia


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