The Net and Terrorists

The Washington Post published an update on al-Qaeda's successful venture into the world of knowledge management (KM) and its child, Computer-based training (CBT). While many businesses in America look for obstacles when deploying effective KM solutions (refusing to see the cost benefit of an imperfect deployment over no deployment over the wrong deployment), these ad hoc "franchises" of AQ latch on with vim and vigor, exploring the various opportunities available in cyberspace.

al Qaeda has become the first guerrilla movement in history to migrate from physical space to cyberspace. With laptops and DVDs, in secret hideouts and at neighborhood Internet cafes, young code-writing jihadists have sought to replicate the training, communication, planning and preaching facilities they lost in Afghanistan with countless new locations on the Internet.

Flexible, anonymous, collaborative knowledge sharing environments is what the web does best. Without being bogged down by bureucratic infighting to create the best practices before deployment, AQ and its affiliated nodes learn by trial and error, developing best practices the old fashioned way.

While easily identifiable items in the WP article are the Computer Based Training (CBT) examples, the real underlying concern is the information and knowledge sharing to build a smarter enterprise. These practices must be met with the same in our matching and superceding efforts, as they increasingly are. Decades old infighting between intelligence services that have led to ossified barriers between knowledge stores, including antiquated information systems, must be torn down and replaced.

The FBI's Virtual Case File system was a disaster, an expensive ($170m) and time-consuming Dilbert-esque failure. The new Sentinel system is not expected to be in-place until 2009. This is not to say we are failing at every effort, but critical knokwledge hubs are not being addressed quick enough. Designing the perfect system takes time, providing an open platform that may be imperfect allows for expansion to meet the needs that are really necessary and develop after design milestones.

Collaborative methodologies take hold when users understand, demand, are heard, and responded to. A flatter organization, like AQ, with its transforming entrepreneurs will continue to evolve into a more formidable enemy because of reduced bureaucratic drag.