Wednesday, January 05, 2005

ROB: CIBC asks court to block Genuity

As a new experiment, I’ve decided to start writing a short piece about something I’ve read the Globe’s business section each day. The focus of this exercise is to explore the information aspects of business dealings. For my first foray I intend to explore a recent spate of hirings on Bay Street.

A new startup—Genuity—has hired away a number of top performers from CIBC World Markets. CIBC has responded with legal action which extends to demanding access to their former employees’ BlackBerrys.

There seems to be two issues at play here. The first involves why Genuity wants to hire away talent. Obviously, those employees have the type of tacit knowledge required to prosper in the world of equities. More interesting, however, is CIBC’s demands to view the information contained on BlackBerrys. We could say that the most important knowledge and information that these employees contain is lodged in their heads and yet we have a direct inquiry into what is obviously explicitly articulated knowledge i.e., the contact information of clients contained on a BlackBerry. So although the tacit knowledge is important, there are the ever-present markers of communication such as addresses, etc. This information is essential to the functioning of the professional but the value of these professionals to Genuity is obviously much greater than just their rolodexes.

The presence of the BlackBerry is quite interesting. A BlackBerry is just a tool and yet it is an ubiquitous tool—people carry them all the time and they are constantly at hand. Could these information appliances act as a type of prosthetic? Do the affordances of these appliances present a major perturbation to the structuration of this particular profession? Have new reverse salients been introduced into the further development of the profession or the industry i.e., the legal ramifications and subpoena-bility of BlackBerry?

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