Merkel Hears a Who

Horton Hears a Who (Dr. Suess, 1954)

Like the famous Dr. Suess book, Horton Hears a Who, where Horton professes to be a protector of those too small to see and espouses that each person is vital to the community (Dr. Suess, 1954). Angela Merkel, prime minister of Germany, is leading the world in COVID analysis. She is bringing together top medical and policy professionals to form a pandemic intelligence hub for the World Health Organization (WHO) (The Guardian, 1 September 2021).

Considering the three stages of knowledge Dixon described in her blog; 1) explicit, 2) experiential 3) collective (Dixon, 2009) in the past the WHO could count on the first element of knowledge management. However, with the demise of organizational authority in many professions including doctors (Raine, 2017), the WHO must try a new tact. The new era is using the collective knowledge of a broad community through the web and database applications. Merkel is leading the charge, establishing a pandemic hub. She is following the experiential model and moving it toward a collective practice in the future. She is genius because she is investing in the hub so Germany can take the lead. She is in the words of Dixon (2009) a great convener, which is the way to lead in the modern world.

Consider the reasons the hub is critical for the world. According to The Guardian (2021) tracking the COVID variant is very difficult because, “Analytical tools are often developed in isolation or on an ad hoc basis, and analyses are hampered by data formatting issues. (p.1)”. The WHO receives more than 9m pieces of information each month (The Guardian, 2021), therefore screening or looking at items fast then assessing, and sharing is paramount to moving fast (Kelly, 2016). In addition, there is a genome sequencing project that needs to be done to track the variants of COVID-19 (The Guardian, 2021). It takes a lot of computing power and many varied inputs from across the world are necessary. A web-based application will help streamline and standardize the data for faster assessment and sharing will improve results through collaboration (Jarche, 2016). This is a great example of how collective learning or further networked knowledge will be important to future science (Dixon, 2009).

Leadership in a collective or networked world is defined by those who have vision to convene the necessary group (Dixon, 2009) and those who spend resources wisely for the right things. Merkel was brilliant in setting up shop in Berlin. In the future, that means Germany will be internationally known for epidemiology. She will also inspire a new generation of German scientists and doctors based on this hub. Of course, she didn’t just fall into leading in science, she has her PhD in quantum chemistry (The Atlantic, 2020). Merkel is technically competent, knows how interact with others, and can conceptualize a future the at better than present for tracking pandemics (Jacques, 1986). That is leadership.

Knowledge Management is here to stay. As Dixon (2007) pointed out, each level has its followers and specific uses. From individuals, operators, collective, and out to the network, they are all unique and useful.

Fake News. In an information age it will be ever more important to guard against fake news and trolls (Singer, 2018). The future will require some kind of branding that shows us real from fake news, perhaps a Consumer Report-type thing? I don’t know what that might be, how do we know who is selling us lies? Maybe you have seen good examples to use?

Angela Merkel is leading by giving a voice to those whose voices are not heard and showing value of community interaction through her United Nations WHO hub.


Dixon (2009).

Jacques, E. (1986). The development of intellectual capability: A discussion of stratified system theory. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 22, 361-384.

Jarche (2016).

Kelly, K. (2016). The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 technological forces that will shape our future, Viking Press, ISBN: 978-0525428084

Rainer, L. (2017) Pew Research.  Education in the Age of Fake News and Disputed Facts. Briefing.

Suess (1954) Horton Hears a Who.

The Guardian (2021).

8 thoughts on “Merkel Hears a Who

  1. Hilda,

    I love your case study on KM. Your case points out the direction I feel KM is moving with the Hub scenario. Kelly (2016) talks about how fake information can quickly spread through a system like this but promptly be resolved. He uses Wikipedia as an example of this. In addition, he points out Wikipedia was creating publishing rights so that it could be more preventative in the fake news getting disseminated. Some social media sites have chosen to develop policies that allow them to censor information. For example, they could block or remove users. In addition, they could put notices on graphic posts that may be untrue or are offensive (Abrougui, 2016).

    It strikes me that if censorship were to occur, the population Merkel is hoping to get the message to could decide to avoid the Hub altogether. What challenges do you believe Merkel will have in imposing policies that help the truth come out and let both sides contribute to the Hub?



    Abrougui, A. (2016, November 8). How social media platforms censor you. IFEX.

    Kelly, K. (2016). The inevitable: Understanding the 12 technological forces that will shape our future. Penguin Books.


    1. Cameron, Thanks for the link discussing how social media sites are censoring. The examples they use are from Turkey, Palestine, and a few other examples around the world but they say the most grievances come from U.S. and Canada. That shows me that the authors weren’t comfortable being completely transparent on what is going on in the U.S. It seems crazy (a word that I found out could get me banned if I used it on a person, see ) that we are getting censored every day and the government doesn’t simply ask for the social media companies to provide their policies. As you will notice in your article, groups are trying to reverse-engineer what is being banned by crowdsourcing people and asking why they were banned, then putting the data together to determine the social media companies’ policies.

      As far as Merkel’s challenges I believe she will need to provide China, Russia, and the United States permanent seats as members of her hub to show preference to countries that might otherwise not contribute to the hub. She needs China and U.S. She doesn’t necessarily need Russia so much but they are good to pacify so they don’t align with China.


  2. Excellent case study, as Cameron noted. To project a fourth generation of KM, will Merkel’s hub converse with the USA hub, the English hub, and even the Chinese hub? A global challenge would seem to necessitate a global solution…


    1. Yes, the hubs will need to be connected with the centers of excellence or hubs from each country and have delegates from each of the leading epidemiology countries and the countries with the largest populations to be able to make the tracking algorithm useful. A global input, the broad network of scientific and tracking data, is needed to output a global response. Transparency and willingness to share across all these countries will continue to be a problem that Merkel will need to address. There most likely will need to be a rotational director that will come from many different countries. The first order of business will be to provide standards and protocols for data to be injected and assessed. This is the basic element of knowledge management in the sense Dixon (2009) mentioned which is more akin to database management for individuals. It is just scaled to the international organization that will need fluid data input/retrieval.

      As an update, I just saw that a Nigerian director is taking the lead of Merkel’s pandemic hub. “The hub is meant to promote more effective data collection, information-sharing, and analysis, leading to better and more coherent decision-making after the patchy global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be headed by Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, currently the director-general of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control” AP News, 2021). That move will certainly help the African continent participate more fully. Look near the end of the article and it discusses Merkel’s call to transparency between countries and still has concerns with China’s lack of participation and honesty, continuing to suggest the virus didn’t emanate from Wuhan but at Fort Detrick, Maryland. This is going to be a tough leadership job for the new Nigerian Director.



  3. L.,
    How are we supposed to know what is real and what isn’t? We teach numerous classes on this exact topic at work. If we get it wrong, it could mean literal life or death. No pressure, right?
    Corroboration is the key in our industry. Although, it doesn’t always mean they’re BOTH right. Looking for valid, tested, independent resources is one of the keys to sifting through the BS.
    I keep telling everyone that I’m a French Model… 🙂


    1. Yes, the key discriminator in the future will be knowing who is trustworthy and who is not. There will be money made on a validation system that can objectively determine who or what organizations that will be. At this point everyone and every organization are suspicious. The trust but verify rule seems relevant but who will verify or validate and how? I found this article useful in discussing future trends for validation.


    1. Glad to be part of your conversation. More on conveners and when to include others in your coalition. Here’s an example from foreign policy.

      I came across this today regarding the U.S. collaboration with U.K. and Australia for nuclear matters. The French and other countries were concerned about being left out of the coalition. To them and other countries who are not part of the initial tranche, “Tanvi Madan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said, “Not every ally or partner has to be in every coalition.”

      Coalition membership is built around the “three R’s,” she said: “Are the members relevant to the particular subset of issues? Are the members ready? Do they have the resources?” (Moriyasu, 2021)
      Moriyasu (2021).


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