posted 1 Mar 2000 in Volume 3 Issue 6
Say: Immitative vs innovative
Learning and knowledge management should be sole mates. Corporate learning should lead to the creation of new knowledge that is captured, shared, and exploited. But is this the case?
According to the two year investigation I undertook for my report Developing a Corporate Learning Strategy (1) most training and development inputs are not resulting in new knowledge and intellectual capital outputs. Substantial sums are being spent on activities that do not have knowledge creation objectives. Learning centres and corporate universities are recycling existing knowledge rather than adding to intellectual capital.
Some of the companies examined are trying hard. Forty different approaches to knowledge management were encountered and twenty-five different areas of opportunity for learning businesses were identified. However, despite the enormous potential for income generation, education, training and development are rarely the vital source of knowledge, intellectual capital and value for stakeholders they could so easily become.
Information can be sold, and ' know-how' from simple tools and techniques to advanced methodologies can be licensed. Customer education can be a strategic business opportunity. But the explicit knowledge management initiatives I encountered appear to have been conceived, and operate, quite independently of the training and development function.
Enormous sums of money are devoted to exposing a diversity of people, working on very different activities, to common experiences that have little relevance to their particular requirements and priorities.
The overwhelming majority of the initiatives examined are imitative rather than innovative. Existing knowledge is being shared, but new knowledge is not being created. The passive receipt of common training inputs can stifle individuality and original thought, and lead to buzz-word repeating clones. Playing ' catch up' and adopting ' me too' approaches are not the way to market leadership.
' Training' may not be appropriate for enterprises intent upon transforming how business is done. Beyond the boundaries of what is known, there may not be relevant knowledge to share. The emphasis has to be upon active exploration and learning.
Customers increasingly demand bespoke services, while the ' know-how' proportion of many offerings continues to grow. Enterprising companies innovate, pioneer and discover. Their people invent new games, establish new markets, and introduce new ways of delivering greater value to their customers.
The management of a current stock of information or knowledge, which might or might not be relevant to individual aspirations, customer requirements, or corporate objectives, is becoming an obsession. Corporate learning strategy should produce energetic creators, imaginative innovators and restless explorers, and lead to new insights, discoveries and breakthroughs.
1. A free brochure on the report Developing a Corporate Learning Strategy can be obtained from Policy Publications by e-mail: email@example.com or by telephoning 01234 328448.
Professor Colin Coulson-Thomas is Chairman of the Judges for the Awards for Innovation in eBusiness. He advises on corporate learning and development. He can be contacted at: