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I3 UPDATE / ENTOVATION International News
No. 23: September 1998


The MIS Contribution to Knowledge Management - Lessons Learned?
Insights from Latin America - Debra Amidon
Economic Turbulence: The Need for Global Knowledge Leadership
What Matter Most - AOM 98 Meeting Report - Mohi Ahmed


Welcome to this edition of I3 UPDATE / ENTOVATION International News, a free briefing analysing developments and key issues in the networked knowledge economy. Who says August is a quiet month? As world economies stagger, can we really cope with the knowledge economy? We give a view. This month focuses on the MIS (Management Information Systems) contribution to Knowledge Management and developments in Latin America. Later in the month we will be issuing a special I3 UPDATE edition analysing European innovation policies and their contribution to national competitiveness.

This Web version is posted at http://www.skyrme.com/updates/u23.htm, where previous editions can also be found. Archived ENTOVATION International News can be found at http://www.entovation.com.

I3 UPDATE is also available by email. See the administrative information page.

David J. Skyrme
Managing Editor

The MIS Contribution To Knowledge Management
Lessons Learned?

David J. Skyrme

Information systems, in particular groupware and Intranets, play a crucial role in virtually all successful knowledge management initiatives. The IT press extols knowledge management solutions. IT research organizations like IDC, Forrester, Gartner, Giga publish regular briefings on knowledge management, though naturally with a very technological slant. Delphi has announced a Best Practice in Knowledge Management service. It will be interesting to see what they come up with, compared to our 1996-7 study, published in Creating the Knowledge-based Business. The IT community is clearly taking Knowledge Management seriously - but how will they best contribute?

Do CIOs Make Good CKOs?

Knowledge initiatives frequently emanate from the MIS function - CKOs report to CIOs, or CIOs take up the KM mantle. At OXIIM (Oxford Institute of Information Management) research colleagues (e.g. Earl, Edwards and Feeny) have studied for several years what makes CIOs successful. They have found, not unexpectedly, that the successful ones, or even survivors (the average CIO survives four years in their position), need a good understanding of the business, a good relationship with the CEO and a good dose of social skills. CKOs, according to recent research by Michael Earl and Ian Scott (see Snippets), confirm that CKOs fall into two camps - hardies and softies - those with and without technical backgrounds. Whatever their background CKOs blend four roles - entrepreneur, environmentalist (i.e. organizational sociology etc.), technologist and consultant. Earl and Scott make an interesting point:

"Unlike many Chief Information Officers who are often (with good reason) preoccupied with job security, all the CKOs (including one whose job was later terminated) expected, at the time we talked, to succeed as CKOs ... they are characteristically buoyant, optimistic, confident and intrigued by the unknown".

They added that the two recurring success factors were "continued support of the CEO" and "slack" - the space and time (say 3-5 years) to get a programme rolling.

Clearly successful CKOs, like successful CIOs, are more than just technologists. They have the leadership and ability to blend all the facets of knowledge management into a coherent organizational strategy.

See also Do You Need a CKO?

Partners to the Business

The recently published paperback edition of Information Management: The Organizational Dimension' ed. Earl (OUP) is a timely reminder that many things we said 10 years ago about IS needing to align and partner closely with the business remain as true today. Many IT projects fail to meet expectations because they do not address human and organizational factors. Likewise knowledge management will succeed or fail, based on similar considerations.

MIS functions must take positive steps, as many seem to be doing, to be a true business partner in support of knowledge management initiatives and strategies. Their major contributions to this partnership are:

  • Joint decision making in setting the strategy, developing the infrastructure and applications, and setting standards of service and user support
  • A focus on the I in IS - working in conjunction with information specialists, t
  • understand information requirements and flows
  • A more iterative style of solutions development: replacing formal systems development methods with rapid application development, experimentation and learning
  • Emphasis on training and coaching: IT specialists guide users through the new generation of knowledge tools and solutions.

The MIS/CIO Contribution

The most useful contributions that MIS can make to help the business are:

  • Increasing business awareness of new opportunities created by technology - bringing intothe organization new technologies for demonstration and experimentation.
  • Technology watch - monitoring external developments while internally stimulating electronic conferences or communities of practice to discuss new developments and user's experiences.
  • Developing an architecture that supports knowledge activities - defining basic standards in several layers from access to application, as well as standard templates and taxonomies for content.
  • Adding realism to user expectations - their experience and judgment should help users get beyond the vendor hype and to clarify what is practical and achievable.
  • Helping users make synergistic connections - their central perspective could help draw together disparate efforts that could benefit from integration.
  • Providing reliable levels of service - as companies get more network dependent, and globally dispersed, reliable 24 hours access is essential i.e. Intranets are 'mission critical'

Above all, MIS functions must stay close to the pulse of the business so that their key issues, problems and opportunities are deeply understood.

Different This Time?

Past experience has not put MIS functions in a good light with developments in end-user computing. Their heritage in centralized transaction systems meant that many were slow to respond, first to PCs and then the Internet. Many were stridently dismissive! Can we be sure that they have now taken on board these lessons? The surest way to gain business and user confidence is that they themselves become models of exemplary KM practice.

Practice What You Preach - Knowledge Management for MIS

If you are an MIS function do you hold knowledge bases of the various IT and end-user skills around the organization? Do you conduct post project reviews and create lessons learned data bases? Do you have organized databases that hold information on new solutions? Are these augmented by discussion lists or computer conferences? Do you run knowledge sharing events with users? Do you log users requests, ideas and problems in an idea bank? These are just a few practices that indicate that MIS is taking knowledge management seriously as a business tools, rather than just another technology toy.

Email: david@skyrme.com

Insights from Latin America

Debra M. Amidon, ENTOVATION International

From Venezuela

From 17-21 July, over 1,000 executives, representing more than 30 countries converged on Caracas, Venezuela, to participate in HR GLOBAL 98 - the biannual meeting of the World Federation of Personnel Management Associations.

Hosted by ENTOVATION colleague Alejandro Fernandez, Vice President for Human Resources, PDVSA, the world congress featured several presentations focused upon intellectual capital and knowledge management: Competencia y Capital Intelectual (Jac Fitz-enz); "De la Revolucion Industriala la Revolucion del Conocimiento" (Luigi Valdes) and Medicion del Capital Intelectual (Leif Edinsson, Skandia).

Edvinsson - who wrote the Foreword for 'Innovation Strategy for the Knowledge Economy: The Ken Awakening', and has his own book (co-authored with Michael Malone) on Intellectual Captial - aligned the leadership agenda for human resource professionals. He described 'enterprising' versus 'the enterprise' and affirmed he would rather be "roughly right than precisely wrong". He challenged the audience: How are you as human resource professionals contributing to the value creation of the company? What is the Intellectual Capital (IC) leadership in your organization? What have you done to create awareness in your organization? Simply stated, are you making the best utilization of your human resources? Using his now infamous visualization techniques, he suggested that others take heed: "Use large images and strong colors if you want to influence mangers over the age of 25!"

With an opening remarks, the organization leaders set the stage for three days of exploration of paths to be taken in the near future given the nature of global uncertainty. "What was stable yesterday is moving today and the work of human assets has become a capital responsibility." What followed were 61 presentations from 71 countries including plenary addresses by Jaques Attali, (former advisor to the Secretary General of the United Nations and to the President of the French Republic), Luis E. Giusti (President of Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A.) and Dee Hock (Founder of the Chaordic Alliance and Emeritus president of Visa International).

Attili in outlining the "Winners and Losers in a New Political Order of the 21st Century", described mistakes, quasi-certainties and contradictions. The Internet, he suggests is the evolution of a 'new continent' and it is destined to be a huge engine for economic growth. He projects huge increases in market economies with various countries, such as China, increasing their global reach. Education will enter the market economy with several schools and universities becoming more like companies with students as clients. There will be an expansion of democracy, facilitated by worldwide communications; and there will be a fundamental transformation of the nature of work:

"We are all nomads, nothing will be stable... focus upon understanding the needs and cultures of one another. Intuition and knowledge of how to use the future provides our capacity to make distinctions between the short and the long-term."

Guisti, speaking on behalf of the corporate leadership, outlined what it takes for effective management of global organizations. He contrasted the 40-year history of industrial experience in Latin America (i.e., dependence, bureaucracy, subsidies, etc.) with what is needed in today's global economy (i.e., dynamic, understanding of the external environment, long-term decisions, flattened organization structures, openness to foreign investments, focus on value-added, and more):

"Only a global attitude can provide solutions to companies and countries 'Globalization goes beyond the colonial view of multi-nationals' We have opened our doors for others to compete; and now, we must go into other countries."

He suggested that years ago, to be large was best; but in today's market, there are many small dynamic companies participating.

A new magazine, HR World, was featured at the congress. The edition includes a column Knowledge Networks - with an article "In the Know" by Tom Lester (UK). Citing several case examples (e.g., BP. Ericsson, Shell, ABB, and consulting firms), he illustrates the multiple ways companies are approaching the knowledge opportunity.

"In fact, it is misleading to treat knowledge management as a single, discrete discipline. In the philosophical sense knowledge may be universal but, in the management context, it has to be related to a particular business or function."

From Peru

Under the leadership of Professors Cesar Corrales Riveros (ccorral@pucp.edu.pe) and Luis Enrique Malpartida Carpena (lmalpar@pucp.edu.pe), the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru hosted the II Congreso International Ingenieria Industrial June 13-16, 1998 in Lima, Peru. Modeled after a similar design used annually by Dr. Antonio Holgado in Santiago, Chile, this congress brought together experts from Israel, the US, Germany, Chile, Columbia, France and more. Situated in the Museo de la Nacion and the displays of the Aztec history, experts explored the implications of modern management and information technology and a vision for the third millennium. In opening remarks, Manuel A. Olcese Franzero, Universidad Decano, outlined the challenge:

"Today's realities were yesterday's fantasies;
today's fantasies are tomorrow's realities.
Man is the center and the measure of everything.
By improving our knowledge, we are improving the lives of everyone.
We must improve our ability to interact -
find new friends and reaffirm old relationships.
The world will not stop; we must share with others.
These are the voices to which we must listen."

Agnes Franco Temple, Vice-Ministra de Industria, continued:

"The new economy requires new answers to the old questions. These answers require a cultural change of entrepreneurialism. These transformations will change the discussion from competitiveness in the short-term toward what systems might be necessary to administer the inevitable growing complexity. Visualization will create conditions for innovation. The greatest competitive advantage of a nation is its people and the capacity to create, innovate, cooperate and serve. We must use internets and wide access to technology to enrich our national knowledge."

Final remarks were provided by Luis Ramos, University Vice President. Citing the founding of the University 81 years ago, he outlined the original mission was to serve the country and work for the development of the nation:

"We are at a threshold; innovative technology has moved to the forefront of the tasks of education. Education is more than perception, creation and innovative skills. It is an on-going learning process new solutions to old problems. We must develop the capacity to renew and adapt to changes. It is imperative that we link the capacity to create and innovate with the development of our nation. We are destined for more profound discussion and debate."

For five days, participants experienced a variety of lectures, panel discussions and tutorials. For example, Robert Swigart (rswigart@iftf.org), Institute for the Future (USA), described the changing business landscape, a framework for organizational models - especially fishnets. Dr. Ezey Dar-El (ezey@ie.technion.ac.il), from Technion University (Israel) provide the historical perspective of the productivity movement leading to synchronized manufacturing buffers - the foundation for modern innovation systems. There were numerous presentations which featured the use of internets and intranets. For example, Tom Vassos, Senior IBM consultant and author of Creating a Strategic Internet Plan, summarized the 30 stages from internet exploitation to strategic transformation. He suggested "This is not a 1M mass market; but rather 1M markets for which you can create 1:1 marketing."

This forum provided an opportunity for many experts within Latin America to share their insights, such as Maria Angela Campelo de Melo (Brazil), Jose Alvarez Madrid and Juan Carlos Saez (Chile), Carlos Colunga and Armando Campillo (Mexico), Ricardo Montero (Cuba), Marcos Erize (Argentina) et al. Jose M. Gassalla Dapena of Euroforum (Spain), outlined his residential program and Antonio Hidalgo from the University of Madrid (Spain) was participating in anticipation of his own Congress in August.

This is evidence of the international connections being made as the community of knowledge practice continues to gain momentum. In addition, ENTOVATION colleagues Hilda Hurtado de Montoya (lm-mige@amouta.rcp.net.pe), Jose Caceres and Phillippe Le Roux (leroux@vdl2.ca) are working to bring the knowledge agenda for broad application in Peru.

From Brazil

Marcos Luis Bruno and Elizabeth M. Beran are the principals of Instituto Pieron de Psicologia Aplicada in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Established 38 years ago, the Institute most recently featured Dr. Eliott Jaques, Tavistock Institute, Brunel University (London, UK), with a seminar Cognicao e Complexidade. The Institute produces a combination summary of key messages from recent events and outline of future programs. Contact instituto@pieron.com.br for more details.

Email: debra@entovation.com
WWW: ENTOVATION International

Economic Turbulence: The Need for Global Knowledge Leadership

David J. Skyrme

Features like 'Boom to Bust' (Time 14 Sept), 'Global Crisis: Time To Act' (Business Week 14 Sept) tell how economic setbacks are rippling around the world. In the North of England, both Fujistu and Siemens have announced semiconductor plant closures, blamed on a world glut and competition from the Far East. Both were supposed to herald the shift from dependency on old industries to the new. Policitians are particularly disappointed about Fujitsu, since it plant was state-of-the-art when it opened only seven years ago. Even once successful US companies are not immune. Time cites Harnischweger's sales to Pacifim Rim countries collapse to nothing from $600 million a year, causing its stock price to drop by two thirds and leading to 3,100 redundancies, a fifth of the workforce.

Complex Systems - Inadequate Understanding

The economy is in the middle of a major structural adjustments, where the old economy rubs shoulders with the new, where national economies have yet to come to terms with globalization, and where politicians thrash helplessly in the dark with outdated interventions. Thus, the only short term policy instrument used in the UK is interest rates. This hits disproportionately at the manufacturing sector, whose current problems are exacerbated by high exchange rates and borrowing costs, yet has not (at least until very recently) dampened consumer demand. Stock price changes are to some extent detached from the real economy - though not for the minority who need to cash in their stocks and shares at a given time. The complex nature of our economic systems means that money markets, equity markets, options markets and normal trading markets operate as different subsystems with their own time loops and dynamics. They interact only at those places and times where a 'good' in one system is exchanged for one in another. Our understanding is limited by our current understanding of complex interacting systems, that range from economic systems to weather systems, though the high profile of speakers lined up for a conference on managing complexity shows growing interest in this subject (see Events).

Considering investment in semiconductor fabrication plants as 'jobs for the future' reveals politicians' ignorance of the changing economy. Fabrication jobs are still mostly an investment in the industrial economy, not in knowledge-based wealth creating jobs.

Global Knowledge Leadership

Taking the long view, many stock markets are still higher than they were a year ago, and usually short term corrections fade into history. But are the fundamentals in place for a return to sustained economic boom? In countries whose economies are in turmoil, one cannot overlook the fact that most have the latent resources needed to succeed in the new economy - knowledge and talent. It never fails to impress me how the younger generation in these countries demonstrate a thirst for knowledge, and are enthusiastic and energetic. Commenting to an ENTOVATION Colleague in Asia, Debra Amidon writes:

"I believe that many countries in Asia are precisely suited for the knowledge economy. Knowledge development is not necessarily in software; it is within the minds of humans - their intuition, intellect, and imagination. The problem is that it is primarily tacit and doesn't become explicit for others to share. This is why we must create the infrastructure within which ideas are created and applied real-time."

However, as Time points out, too many countries at the moment have 'Lost Leaders' - leaders out of touch with the populace, leaders who turn a blind eye to corruption, and leaders (as in Malaysia), who try to ring fence their country from the outside world. How can a country like Russia become great again when many of its highly talented people resort to less skilled jobs like driving taxis and labouring just to feed their families?

Policiticans and policy makers can learn much from successful corporate knowledge initiatives. These bring together disaggregated knowledge, and harness the potential of their people to generate new wealth creating opportunities. Yet, elsewhere, as in a company workshop I ran yesterday for an organization renowned for its quality of scientists and engineers, it was quickly apparent that the attendees had unexploited talents, underutilized capabilities, and are frustrated about the (management) 'systems' in their organization that stifle their ability and desire to build a better future. In contrast, knowledge leaders have clear and compelling visions, understand the role of knowledge in creating wealth and motivate and empower their key knowledge workers.

That is the kind of knowledge leadership which we need in the global economy, yet is in short supply. We know, as President Kennedy showed us when America put men on the moon, that with an inspiring vision and stretching goals, that what seems impossible is achievable with the right talent and leadership. What we all need now is the global equivalent of the 1960s US space programme. But where are the policy makers that have the global knowledge leadership to inspire us all to make it happen?

Email: david@skyrme.com

"What Matters Most"

The Academy of Management (AOM) 1998 Meeting
San Diego, California, August 7-12

Report by Mohi Ahmed

The city of San Diego provided a perfect infrastructure for this conference program of 2,112 papers and 192 symposia. In 'What Matters Most in Technology and Innovation Research' leading scholar Professor Andrew H. Ven de Ven (U. of Minnesota) indicated seven areas of transition including Artifacts to Design Knowledge Embedded in Artifacts, Life Cycle to Evolutionary Views, and perspectives that are shifting from Regional to Global. Dorothy Leonard (Harvard U.) saw Knowledge Management as becoming an integral part of research in the fields of Organizational Behavior, Strategy, Technology and Innovation Management, and Management of Information Technology.

In 'What's Important in Knowledge Management', Professor Ikujiro Nonaka presented his concept of 'Ba' that he defines as shared spaces. He described four characteristics of Ba - Originating Ba (face-to-face); Interacting Ba (pee-to-peer); Cyber Ba (group-to-group); and Exercising Ba (on-the-site). He emphasized the concept is important for building a foundation for knowledge creation. In the session Spanning Knowledge Boundaries in Managing Technology: Professor Jane M. Howell (U. of Western Ontario) presented results from research on Champions of Product Innovation:

  • Champions emerge from different hierarchical levels of organizations
  • Championship may be a constellation of behaviors that can be nurtured and learned.

Attending the AOM conference, I have gained a clear impression about the importance of a 'holistic' approach in management research, which I believe is essential to develop any effective solutions in today's complex global business environment. More than ever, we need to study issues with a global perspectives and third-culture standpoint. In my own my current research, "Inter-organizational R&D Collaboration", I am trying to apply a 'Holistic' approach through case research methods. In this research, I am proposing a new concept, "Champions of Collaboration" - individuals who foster inter-organizational collaboration and contribute to collaborative innovation. These champions will create, exploit, and sustain the global infrastructure for sustainable innovation in the 21st Century. Any questions and comments on my current research are very welcome.

Mohi Ahmed, PhD Program, School of Communication, Simon Fraser University
Email: mahmed@sfu.ca


13-16 September 1998. 51st ESOMAR Congress, Berlin: "The Power Of Knowledge"
Email: congress@esomar.nl

14 September - 3 October 1998. Collaborate '98: A Virtual Conference on Virtual Teams.

25 September 1998. Knowledge Creation and Transfer: The Second Annual UC Berkeley Forum on Knowledge and the Firm, Berkeley, California. IMIO.
Email: conference@haas.berkeley.edu

29 September 1998. Innovation Strategy for the Knowledge Economy, Paris. Seminar by Debra M. Amidon.
Email: cml@hol.fr

13-15 October 1998. KM Expo '98, Chicago.

13-14 October 1998. Knowledge Management. Munich. Auf Deutsch und Englisch. ComMunic.
Tel: +49 89 74 11 7270

22-23 October 1998. Third Annual Symposium on Knowledge Management "Lessons from the Leading Edge", Williamsburg, Virginia. AQPC. Info at

25-27 October 1998 'Capitalizing on Knowledge', Chantilly, VA. Knowledge Incs. Annual Strategic Forum.

25-30 October 1998. International Conference on Complex Systems, with pre-conference event 'Complexitry and Managment' 22-25 Oct, Boston.

28-30 October 1998. Corporate Innovation Management Conference, Amsterdam. Includes exhibition of solutions from Intranet and KM suppliers. First Conferences.

4-5 November, 1998. Measuring and Valuing Intellectual Capital, New York. Supported by The International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC). Debra Amidon is speaking on The Economics of Intangible Value. World Trade Conferences.
Tel: +44 171 613 7500 or email: andrew@worldtradeconf.com

5-6 November 1998. Knowledge Summit 98, London. Closing session will be David Skyrme on The Future of Knowledge Management. Business Intlleigence.

2-9 November, 1998. Fourth European Telework Week. Events across Europe.

For other telework events visit the events calendar at European Telework Online

16-18 November 1998, Amsterdam. Knowledge Management for Chemicals '98.
Email: shabnam@firstconf.com

8-10 December, 1998. Knowledge Management Conference/Data Warehouse Summit, Phoenix, AZ. DCI.

For other telework events visit the events calendar at European Telework Online.


'Knowledge Management: Practices for Innovation - An Audit Tool', Rod Coombs, Richard Hull and Malcom Peltu, CRIC Working Paper, University of Manchester. (ISN 1 84952 005 1)

'What on Earth is CKO', Michael Earl and Ian Scott, London Business School (in association with IBM).

The NetAcademy on Knowledge Media, University of St Gallen, Switzerland. http://www.knowledgemedia.org/

© Copyright, 1998. David Skyrme Associates Limited and Authors - All rights reserved.

This newsletter is copyright material. In the interests of dissemination of information, forward circulation is permitted provided it is distributed in its entirety including these notices, that it is not posted to newsgroups or distribution lists and that it is not done for commercial gain or part of a commercial transaction. For other uses please contact the publisher.

I3 UPDATE / ENTOVATION International News is a joint publication of David Skyrme Associates Limited and ENTOVATION International Limited - providers of trends analysis, strategic advice and workshops on knowledge management and knowledge innovation®

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