Hercule Poirot: Subject Matter Expert and Knowledge Manager

If you are in the UK, you can’t have missed the excellent new adaptation of Agatha Christie’s ABC Murders over the Christmas holidays. See the source image

If you did miss it and enjoy a Golden Age murder, you can (at the time of writing at least) find it on catch-up here.

It didn’t seem terribly faithful to the book as I remembered it, so I decided to re-read the book alongside the series (and enjoy again a rattling good tale).

And while re-reading the original story, I was struck by how Poirot (well, Agatha Christie) has some excellent quotations about Knowledge and Learning and the power of conversation. I thought they might be useful,  so I’m sharing them with you.


On implicit and tacit knowledge and hunches…

Here Hercule is explaining why his “feeling” that there is something amiss about the murderer’s letters should be taken seriously.

“Not instinct, Hastings. Instinct is a bad word. It is my knowledge – my experience – that tells me that something about that letter is wrong.”


“But what is often called an intuition is really an impression based on logical deduction or experience. When an expert feels that there is something wrong about a picture or a piece of furniture or the signature on a cheque he is really basing that feeling on a host of small signs and details. He has no need to go into them minutely – his experience obviates that – the net result is the definite impression that something is wrong. But it is not a guess, it is an impression based on experience.”


On surfacing information (and knowledge) through conversation…

Here Hercule is trying to unearth from a group of witnesses and the victims’ families, any  facts or events, however small, that might link the seemingly random murders. So far the only similarity between the series of killings is that each victim’s name and home town links to a letter of the alphabet (the first victim was Alice Ascher of Andover).

“Telling everything you know always implies selection…. One cannot tell everything. Therefore one selects…. people select what they think is important. But quite frequently they think wrong!”

“And how is one to get at the right things? Simply, as I said just now, by conversation. By talking! By discussing a certain happening, or a certain person, or a certain day, over and over again, extra details are bound to arise.”


What do you think?

Was Hercule Poirot a Subject Matter Expert and Knowledge Manager at heart?

Have you come across any other fictional characters whose Knowledge and Learning quotes would be useful for training and discussions? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

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About knowledge4lawyers

I am a lawyer and a Knowledge Management expert. Through The Knowledge Business I help law firms improve their efficiency and profitability through knowledge services - consultancy, training and implementation help.
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2 Responses to Hercule Poirot: Subject Matter Expert and Knowledge Manager

  1. Susan Chan says:

    Great post on Hercule Poirot and the quotes from Agatha Christie on the subject of knowledge. She wrote this so long ago and yet it remains fresh and relevant today.

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