posted 1 Apr 1999 in Volume 2 Issue 7
Creating a World Trade of Ideas: A
Global Knowledge Innovation Infrastructure
The prosperity of individuals, enterprises and nations relies upon knowledge as the resource and innovation as the process. If knowledge is the modern asset - the most precious resource of the 21st century, perhaps there is a need to create a knowledge innovation infrastructure for the World Trade of ideas. In the article David Skyrme & Debra Amidon outline the opportunity to create such an infrastructure - the Global knowledge innovation infrastructure (GKII).
Knowledge has emerged as the strategic focus for business and has been growing in importance over the last decade. Of course, Peter F. Drucker described the knowledge worker as long ago as 1963. A dozen years ago, there were at least three authors who wrote about the potential of managing knowledge capital: Sveiby (Sweden); Amidon (United States) and Itami (Japan). A few years later, Nonaka explained the role of tacit/explicit knowledge in the Harvard Business Review, Tom Stewart documented the importance of brainpower in Fortune and John Seely Brown (Xerox PARC) wrote about 'communities of practice'. At about the same time, Ray Stata, CEO of Analog Devices, and Arie de Geus, chief planner at Shell, described the value of learning as the key competitive weapon from a practitioner perspective.
Since these early descriptions, interest in knowledge as a lever of strategy and the number of organisations with formal knowledge programmes has grown inexorably. Today, we now see scores of conferences annually, many books on the subject, web sites and several periodicals devoted specifically to the knowledge focus. The cases described show the real benefits that organisations are gaining through a systematic approach to harnessing existing and new knowledge - better products and services, faster time-to-market, improved customer service and reduction of cost through avoiding reinventing the wheel.
From the specialist topic of a few aficionados, knowledge has become a focus of attention in almost every industry and function. Perhaps the most recent trend is the obvious global interest in the field, making knowledge a key agenda item far beyond the realms of the commonly cited examples in North America, Western Europe and Japan. For example, inputs from geographic liaison members of the ENTOVATION Network1 in a recent survey highlighted the way that the knowledge economy is perceived around the world, as these samples indicate:
|'Knowledge Economy - in a paradoxical way - is becoming the most equalising force in the world...the West acquiring a humility which helps us become better citizens of the earth.' (Lily Evans. Virginia Water, England)|
|'The invisible hand of the market must be accompanied by an invisible handshake (i.e., connectivity and trust led business)' (Piero Formica, Bologna, Italy)|
|'Knowledge is more important than raw material.' (Abdulla M. Al Subyani, Dammam, Saudi Arabia)|
|'Intellectual capital...is the key for China's development in the 21st Century.' (Jin Zhouying, Beijing, China)|
|'With knowledge being a universal language, this is a form of economy which will promote collaboration rather than competition or conflict' (Chin Hoon Lau, Johor Bahru, Malaysia)|
|'It's a world wide phenomenon' (Sally Davenport, Wellington, New Zealand)|
|'The emergence of a global consciousness - a critical mass of individuals realising the potential of knowledge to leverage a universal process of sustainable development.' (Javier Carillo, Monterrey, Mexico)|
|'The digital/knowledge industries are ones where walls are coming down between nations, industries, sectors of the economy and between functions of an organisation.' (George Kozmetsky, Austin, Texas)|
|'Knowledge becomes the main engine of value-creation. Human beings and the quality of their relationships becomes the key determinant of success in this economy.' (Hubert Saint-Onge, Waterloo, Canada).|
Further evidence of the globalisation of the knowledge agenda is its acceptance as a pivotal point of policy by both nation states and international agencies alike. The UK's latest policy paper from the Department of Industry on UK National Competitiveness is called 'Creating the Knowledge-based Economy'. Similar Reports have been published in China, Canada and Korea. Denmark's Ministry of Industry has a pilot project to develop intellectual capital reports for 20 companies. Singapore has a follow-on to Singapore 2000 to make it a regional 'knowledge hub'. The World Bank's 1998 World Development Report is entitled 'Knowledge for Development'. All these developments point to a new blueprint for the future - a knowledge value proposition based upon a balance of economics, behaviour and technology, and where learning is shared across organisational boundaries.
The Generation gap
As knowledge becomes the focal point of strategy for enterprises and nation states alike, it is clear that old management and policy practice no longer suffice. The rules of management have changed - and significantly so. We need new measures, new methods and new infrastructures to maximise prosperity through knowledge. And many of these will come from contrasting experiences at both enterprise and regional or national level.
For example, measurement studies for the economic well being of regions reveal approaches that are equally applicable for an enterprise. Thus the Massachusetts Innovation Index developed 33 measures in three groups - inputs (resources), transformation activities (recipe) and outputs (results). This notion is immediately transferable to IC systems in the business arena.
The reality is that we are living in 5th Generation change dynamics and operating significantly outdated management technology. Management methods in the knowledge arena need to changes in several areas - from hierarchy to networks, from training to learning, from competitive to collaborative strategy.
Many of the characteristics of 5th generation management are well recognised, and are indeed practised in many parts of organisations or in intergovernmental agencies. For example, few major aerospace development projects can today take place without sustained global collaboration with erstwhile competitors. Similarly, research and policy networks like the OECD transcend national governments. However in general, most organisations are still managing by 3rd and 4th generation management methods. Furthermore, as knowledge becomes more established as a vital resource, there are likely to be new opportunities and new markets focused on tradable knowledge.
Even while most enterprises are grappling with the transition to 5th generation management, the leading enterprises and policy makers are starting to consider what might lie beyond (i.e. 6th generation management). We don't yet have the answers, nor the label, but it may well include:
|Futurising - creating more sustainable futures through new knowledge created and applied in global knowledge networks|
|Knowledge communities - bringing together disparate knowledge and people in dispersed locations to advance knowledge and its exploitation in different spheres of interest|
|Intelligent agents - creating symbiotic relationships between human and artificial intelligence technology for the creation gathering of knowledge|
|Knowledge trading - ways of valuing and trading different knowledge objects, perhaps through an IT infrastructure, whose value changes depending on time and context.|
Wherever any organisation is on the chart, everybody faces the challenge of understanding what is possible, sharing knowledge about best (knowledge) management practice and developing approaches for new kinds of knowledge environments, where innovation and collaboration are fundamental planks of prosperity. This is the thinking behind what has been christened the Global Knowledge Innovation Infrastructure (GKII).
The United Nations was created to maintain political stability around the world. The World Bank and the IMF were created after World War II to ensure the movement of financial capital. Today we need a similar infrastructure for knowledge and innovation. This is the premise behind the GKII (Global Knowledge Innovation Infrastructure), an idea first envisioned as part of ENTOVATION's Foresight.
The GKII provides a vehicle to leverage the different competencies in ways that support local and global efforts simultaneously. In knowledge management work we have seen how good generic knowledge principles developed in one area, such as the US Army 'After Action Review' can be successfully transferred into other enterprises, such as British Petroleum and Amoco. Emerging economies like China, as indicated earlier, are thinking deeply about the knowledge economy, and have as much to offer the rest of the world as the rest of the world has to them. Economically, prosperous China may well be dependent upon a successful India, and vice versa. Each benefits from this sharing and development of knowledge about knowledge from the other.
The main focus of the GKII is therefore to provide forums for structured dialogue around the standards of knowledge innovation. It is being designed around five sets of activities:
1. Knowledge Leadership Practicums - workshops exploring key trends and their implications for enterprise within a structured framework.
2. A Roundtable for Innovators from around the World - an event that presents the research findings and provides a forum for dialogue between functions, geographies and industry sectors.
3. An 18-month Research Agenda - teams and task forces that explore the implications in terms of new methods, structures and processes for knowledge development and exploitation.
4. Knowledge Innovation Awards - awards that recognise contribution to the development of the knowledge agenda and its practices.
5. A Worldwide Knowledge Innovation Congress - that focuses on the flow of knowledge for innovation. It will be a place to meet, to learn, to collaborate and to innovate.
Although many activities will be carried out around the world through the virtual dimension of technology, the initiative has a physical locus - Banff in Alberta, Canada - the setting for the first GKII event in November 1998.
Banff was chosen for several reasons, not least for its excellence and leadership in three areas crucial to knowledge creation. Seated at the foot of the Canadian Rockies, its spectacular setting provides a great stimulus for creative thinking and inspiration. The not-for-profit Banff Centre provides a unique blend of three kinds of knowledge - the Centre for Management, the Centre for Cultural and Performing Arts and the Centre for the Environment. Geographically it is a bridge between East and West.
At the launch workshop in November, participants from organisations in different sectors and from different parts of the world explored the implications of knowledge for their business. Videoconferencing was used to bring in thought provoking presentations from Leif Edvinsson of Skandia and Stephen Denning of the World Bank. They highlighted the need to get above the minutiae of tools and methods and to focus on parallels (metaphors) and perspectives.
The first steps were taken to scope the research agenda. It was immediately clear that the type of research needed is not academic research but action-research. Globally dispersed participants will bring their knowledge to bare on key problems and issues in the form of a global learning collaboratory network. Prototypes of new knowledge will be developed. Ideas will be converted into action, either new processes or perhaps collaboratively created new products and business opportunities. The agenda will stimulate collaboration across different boundaries
Perhaps the most important insight to emerge from the initial Practicum was that indeed, no one organisation or individual has a monopoly of knowledge. Whatever their industry, whether publishing, oil transportation or cellular communications, the participants gained relevant insights from others. In the words of participants:
|'The most important part of the GKII are the multiple cultures.'|
|'There's lots of energy and a majestic future to build'|
|'In such a beautiful environment, your competencies and multiple talents are bound to emerge.'|
|'In three short days, we have developed a community.'|
|'There is real power in our conversations'|
|'We have new meaning for the notions of collaboration.|
|'The GKII is real and I will do what I can.|
The host and sponsor of the meeting, Doug Macnamara, Vice President of the Banff Centre summarised the occasion as follows:
'It takes a 6th sense to be able to intervene in situations which might happen versus reacting to situations. We are here to build the leadership competencies of those in whom we will vest our future.'
Interestingly these sentiments are consistent with those on the plaque on the wall illustrating the intent of the founder:
'Make no small dreams; they lack imagination to stir men's blood!'
Forty years later, this vision has turned into a Centre of excellence, renowned throughout the world. The dreams of those at the GKII's launch at Banff are of equal magnitude. Their vision is one of a new economic world order, based upon knowledge (not technology), innovation (not solutions), customer success (not satisfaction) and international collaboration (not competitive advantage). It will take an international holonomy (a nesting of networks) along the lines of that depicted in to bring it to fruition.
All individuals and enterprises of all nations are welcome and encouraged to participate. It will take all of us - developing and industrialised nations alike - to create a sustainable future and an increased standard of living around the globe.
To Find Out More About the GKII Visit the web site at http://www.gkii.org and the Global Knowledge Leadership Map at http://www.entovation.com
Contact Doug Macnamara, The Banff Centrel: doug_Macnamara@banffcentre.ab.ca..
Debra M. Amidon is founder and Chief Strategist of ENTOVATION International, an international research and consulting network specialising in knowledge innovation. She can be contacted at:
David Skyrme is a knowledge management consultant, whose firm is a partner in the ENTOVATION Network. The contributors are co-authors of the highly regarded management report entitled Creating the Knowledge-based Business, published by Business Intelligence (1997). He can be contacted at: