I3 UPDATE / ENTOVATION International News
No. 24: October 1998
Learning about Knowledge Management: On Course for the Future
A Large Scale Enterprise and KM: The Motorola Approach
Don't Downgrade the Message to the Europeans
Knowledge for Development - A New Report from The World Bank
Yet Another Magazine - Will It Sustain Its Quality?
Satisfied Surfers - and Our Plans for the Future
Welcome to this edition of I3 UPDATE / ENTOVATION International News, a free briefing analysing developments and key issues in the networked
knowledge economy. This month looks at education - what needs to be done to
propagate knowledge and skills of knowledge management, and what one
particular organization, Motorola, is doing.
I3 UPDATE is also available by email. See the administrative information page.
David J. Skyrme
David J. Skyrme
You know when something is more than a passing fad. Academic institutions
start planning courses. Having seen several such plans for knowledge
management, it does raise the question of the right way to learn about it.
In truth, knowledge is a bit light-weight when it comes to an academic
discipline. Unless you go deeply into philosophy or cognitive science, the
theory, at least from a management perspective, trails the practice.
Nevertheless, knowledge management is emerging as a distinct discipline
that draws together themes from other subjects. So - who should learn about
it, and how?
Everyone a Knowledge Manager
Virtually every professional today, whatever their discipline, is a
knowledge worker. They collect information, assimilate knowledge, and learn
through experience. But most do not manage information and knowledge as
well as they should. They cannot quickly find information they already
have, they are deluged in data but starved of knowledge, and do not convey
their knowledge optimally to others for due reward. The education system
through which most of us progressed, emphasized transfer of knowledge, much
of which has a relatively short lifetime. What we were not taught, at least
explicitly, was how to think, how to learn, how to organize information,
how to encapsulate knowledge or transfer tacit knowledge. What we know has
largely come through on the job learning or post-education training
courses. Every knowledge worker needs a set of basic knowledge concepts and
process skills - information management, facilitation etc. - that are only
now being recognized as important and teachable.
Some More Than Others
The knowledge agenda requires that some individuals, such as those working
in knowledge centres or in knowledge teams, need more specialist knowledge
skills for new roles that are emerging, such as knowledge analysts, brokers
and editors. Many emanate from information science and information
management. Other roles, though, concern the transfer of tacit knowledge
and rely on skills that are best learnt through practice.
Acquiring the Knowledge
There are several ways of acquiring essential knowledge and skills for
knowledge management. Each has plusses and minusses:
- Reading books. These give a quick ramp up on essentials. However, with
knowledge management the flavour of the month, many books have been rushed
out and are frankly far from helpful. Books can never, by themselves, give
practical hands-on learning.
- Seminars. These give a broad overview and practical examples, but usually
lack a cohesive framework for integrating theory and practice.
- A workshop or course. These are usually oriented around a practical
framework, but may lack the theoretical background or have a very biassed
or narrow view of knowledge management.
- An academic course e.g. an MBA module on knowledge management. These
usually balance theory and practice, but suffer from the teaching methods
used. Full time courses mean that students lose touch with business
reality. Case studies tend to focus on somebody elses situation and
yesterday's business models.
- From mentors and experts or through consultancy. This gives focussed
learning around specific problems and issues, and transfer of other's
experience. However, unless built into the relationship, the fundamental
conceptual underpinning may be omitted.
Each of the above methods do have their place. You must be clear, however,
as to the type of knowledge transferred, and what knowledge gaps remain. A
common problem that I see is that the learner is not as actively involved
as they should be. Just the other day, I was asked to quote for delivering
a course, yet the potential client clearly wanted the cook book, me to do
most of the talking, and have little interaction from the participants. I
declined, since their learning would be minimal!
The approach of action-learning or action-research, perhaps in the context
of a learning organization initiative, starts to draw together the threads
of learning about knowledge management in an effective way. A common
paraphrase of this approach is:
- Learn Before Doing - what are we planning to do? Are there models,
theoretical frameworks, proven experience on which we can base our actions?
- Learn While Doing - continually recording progress e.g. in a learning
diary, what worked and did not work - and why?
- Learn After Doing - taking time to reflect on the lessons learned,
perhaps using independent observers and facilitators.
This is the approach we adopt in our Knowledge Management in Practice
Workshop (http://www.skyrme.com/services/kmpract.htm). The workshops, which can be customized, consist of a series of modules designed as learning
cycles - theory, practice, review and discussion.
Another aspect of the action-learning approach is to take a real business
situation that needs better knowledge management - perhaps customer
service, or the new product development process - and have a task team or
Community of Practice work through a plan of action. At each stage they are
interacting with external experts - both academics and other practitioners
- to apply theory and learn from practice (and possibly generate new models
and theories). Learning of core concepts and techniques takes place while
improving a current organizational situation.
In my experience, the world of academia, business and consultancy are too
engrossed in their own narrow agendas, with their specific methods, and are
failing to build the structure needed for developing vitally needed generic
knowledge management competencies for the future. "Not true, not true" you
may say. While it is true that some consultancies have multi-client
learning forums, that some academic institutions share action-research
programs with business colleagues, and that some businesses have active
learning programmes (e.g. Motorola - see next article), these are the exceptions rather than the rule.
Some of the most progressive developments are coming from new centres and
new forums that bring each party together in a common research and learning
agenda. One such is the Knowledge Management Forum; another is the
ENTOVATION Institute whose inaugural meeting will be held at Banff in
Canada in November (more in a future I3 UPDATE).
Each of us - whether in academia, commercial or not-for-profit enterprises
or consultancies - must come out of our traditional camps and give and take
from each other. For example:
- Academia - give research/learning rigour and academic accreditation to
knowledge management research and learning initiatives. Gain access and
expertise from practical situations.
- Enterprises - give access to some tricky problems, give time to your
employees to learn more about knowledge management. Gain richer insights
into your own problems from the knowledge that exists beyond your firm.
- Consultancies - give knowledge of your own experience in encapsulating
and managing knowledge. Gain new knowledge on the application of knowledge
management in different businesses.
While the detail of how this is done is not always clear, what is clear is
that such collaborative ventures are needed if knowledge management skills
are to improve beyond the levels that current trajectories indicated. Even
if the parties come together in a common agenda there remains the challenge
of sharing and valuing the intellectual equitably where the ground rules of
IC economics are still being developed. Perhaps, though, that is one item
on the common learning agenda.
Debra M. Amidon
Our research shows that organizations of every size, industry and sector
appear to be addressing the implications of the knowledge economy for them
and their constituency. Every approach is unique; for, indeed, every
company is unique.
In the last three years, there is been an explosion of Knowledge Management
conferences - first in a generic sense (e.g., the Knowledge Advantage of
Ernst & Young, the Knowledge Imperative Symposium of Arthur Andersen and
APQC, KM 96/97 of Business Intelligence and more). Subsequent conferences
focused on specific industries (e.g., the Oil & Gas Industry,
Pharmaceuticals, etc). And now, we see emerging functional specific
knowledge conferences, such as the ones scheduled in London for Chief
Financial Officers (CFO's) and Chief Learning Officers (CLO's). Our
prediction is that this is only the beginning...they barely touch the
surface of what might be needed for true implementation within an
organization. So, these forums are wonderful idea generators, opportunities
for networking with kindred spirits, learning about best practices; but
"a good idea does not an innovation make!"
And so, the real challenge, is how best to bring the knowledge into the
company and integrate it with current practice, desired market positioning
and emerging vision. For those of us who have been practitioners, we know
that this is far more difficult than one might expect.
Motorola is an excellent example of one leading company with a history of a
learning philosophy who has decided to bring the knowledge agenda in-house.
With a series of 'Knowledge Collaboration' symposia, RS Moorthy
(email@example.com), Director, Research and Strategic Capabilities, with
expert assistance from Verna Allee, Integral Performance Group
(http://www.vernaallee.com), and author of The Knowledge Evolution, has convened events for senior executives and are now manages an on-line
dialogue with the assistance of George Por, Community Intelligence Lab
In a carefully designed seminar series for senior executives, the company
has brought the best theorists and practitioners into Motorola for dialogue
on the implications of the knowledge economy - both trends and practices -
for the future of Motorola. The first symposium featured Leif Edvinsson
(Skandia), Hubert Saint-Onge (The Mutual Group), Gordon Petrash (formerly
Dow), and Bipin Junnarkar (Monsanto).
The second symposium (this August) opened with remarks from Pat Canavan,
Senior Vice President for Global Leadership and Organizational Development.
In referencing the size and history of the company, he noted how the lag
time in transferring ideas (technology) from Europe to the United States.
What might take only 7 hours within a small geographic region can expand to
7 days and even 7 years when crossing the Atlantic. In a dynamic, global
economy, this can no longer be the case. The answer is in collaboration;
but how does this effect the way business strategy is developed and
Unlike most symposia where speakers have little time to develop their
ideas, each speaker in the series is provided with a full half day.
Material is geared toward actual examples and mechanisms for delivery in
addition to the typical war stories. Accepting the mandate, the group
outlined some of the specific challenges which needed to be addressed, such
as partnership with customers, cross-organizational information, overcoming
the NIH-syndrome (i.e. Not-Invented-Here), electronic communications and
standards, cultural barriers (not technology per se) and more.
Debra M. Amidon outlined "Visualizing the Knowledge Economy: The
State-of-the Art, the State-of-the-Practice and the State-of -the Future".
Groups were formed to create a radar chart of their innovation capability
along ENTOVATION's ten dimensions of innovation strategy:
- Manage the COLLABORATIVE PROCESS.
- Evaluate PERFORMANCE MEASURES which are both tangible and intangible.
- Leverage EDUCATION/DEVELOPMENT to incubate new businesses.
- Convert the worldwide presence into a DISTRIBUTED LEARNING NETWORK.
- Manage COMPETITIVE INTELLIGENCE with a wide radar scope.
- Create more new KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTS and SERVICES than the competition.
- Manage and learn from the plethora of STRATEGIC ALLIANCES.
- Maintain a MARKET IMAGE consistent with a focus on knowledge and
- Create a LEADERSHIP POSITION and LEVERAGE both internally and
- Implement a COMPUTER/COMMUNICATION strategy which learns from internal
and external dialogue.
Kent Greenes, Director of Knowledge Management for BP,
outlined the evolution of the focus within the company, illustrating the
use of technology, business case examples, and future directions. By posing
some basic questions initially to the group (e.g. "What is your current
stock price? What should it be? If we cut x% of our workforce, how might we
work smarter to create value? What's the one thing keeping you from making
progress?"), he set the stage for the business implications of a knowledge
By illustrating some of the learnings from their activities to-date,
Greenes suggests the 4 things which have made a difference in their journey:
- Admitting that KM is not a new initiative, not rocket science, and
acknowledging that people have been doing it for some time.
- Identifying the right CONDITIONS for KM to flourish.
- Providing the right MEANS for managing knowledge via a robust KM framework.
- Nurturing the right ACTIONS by lowering barriers to knowledge sharing
"If you learn faster than your opponents,you are going to win every time"
says Greenes. He described the value of the 're-use' of knowledge -
building upon the knowledge already created, and ended with the heart of
the opportunity - "contributing to the sustainable development around the
world." In describing BP's learning curve, he identified 5 stages:
- Engagement Phase
- Applying Simple Tools Phase
- Capturing and leveraging Knowledge Phase
- Internalized learning Phase
- Breakthrough Phase
These notions are reinforced in an interview "Unleashing the Power of
Learning" (Harvard Business Review (September/October 1997), with John
Browne, BP's CEO. He provides the executive view of the knowledge
imperative, answering several questions about the affect of the diffusion
of knowledge on the competition, the critical kinds of learning, the notion
of distinctive assets and distinctive relationships, learning networks of
similar organizations, and how to create a culture of continuous innovation.
Chuck Sieloff, Manager (firstname.lastname@example.org), Corporate Information Systems, Hewlett Packard Company, provided an open analysis of the internal Corporate Leadership Forum Study. Why do large companies stall and how
might one keep growth going? In an illuminating presentation, he contrasted
that the factors which traditionally made HP successful in the past (i.e.,
local and informal) may not be what is needed for the future (i.e., global
and formal). In describing the results of their cultural assessment, they
- Knowledge is not well documented.
- While reusing knowledge is considered desirable, many people do not put
much time into it.
- People believe that sharing is more valued than hoarding; they would
like to share but do not have the time.
- Trust is a big factor on both sides of a knowledge-sharing transaction.
- The organization invests in development programs; but most knowledge is
personal and most learning is individual.
Sieloff acknowledges that executives must step up to the KM challenge:
- Don't wait for top-down sponsorship.
- Link your efforts to the business problems and strategies rather than
expecting people to rally under the KM banner.
- Turn the KM 'community of interest' into a 'community of practice.'
- KM problems are often the flip side of HP strengths (e.g.
decentralization, product innovation and business focus).
Finally, George Por (email@example.com), architect of the Knowledge Ecology University and expert on 'Communities of Practice' facilitated the
dialogue on how Motorola could use the concept to deliver business results.
Using the Community Development ArchitectureTM - Knowledge, Social,
Business and Technology, he suggested the value proposition:
- Process and product improvement, continuous innovation through developing
and spreading practices better
- Time savings, accelerating time-to-market and other business cycles, and
letting the organization learn faster than its competitors.
- Fostering cross-functional and cross-divisional collaboration, turning
knowledge skills into knowledge-sharing networks
- increasing the ability of your organization's members to initiate and
contribute to projects across organizational boundaries.
He focused on the Knowledge Ecosystem:
- A network of conversations, face-to-face and electronic meetings,
facilitated for results, richly hyperlinked with feeding, and fed by
- A knowledge center: a collection of shared project and team references,
knowledge bases of both proven solutions and new approaches to what, who,
why, how, where and when.
He contrasted KM and Knowledge Ecology. Knowledge Ecology adds context,
synergy and an emphasis on culture. See comparison table at
The final Symposium in the series is scheduled for late October and will
feature Stephen Denning (The World Bank), Larry Prusak (IBM), Karl-Erik
Sveiby (Sveiby Knowledge Management) and Bob Buckman (Buckman Laboratories).
By bringing the expertise in-house, the organization has optimized the
dialogue among its executives and provided an opportunity to convert
'idea-to action' (i.e., the ENTOVATION definition of innovation) real-time.
Because dynamics are moving at such a pace, companies cannot rely on
external education programs alone to create and diffuse the awareness
afforded by a knowledge economy. Internal leadership must be aggressive,
progressive and systematic about implementing these concepts.
If companies are not large scale, they should consider linking with other
smaller companies in their local area to create similar initiatives as a
venture in 'collaborative learning.'
"I enjoyed your 'European Innovation' issue (13 Update) and agree with most
of what you say. However, a couple of caveats:
1. I know what you mean when you suggest that with innovation the emphasis
may be better being shifted to collaboration rather than competition.
However, I sense that ANYTHING that downgrades the urgent message to
Europeans that they need to be competitive is highly unwise. Europeans
often appear to believe that they can potter around managing things in
their own back yard as they want, and in their own ways. Reality suggests,
however, that if ever competitive instincts are relaxed, lean-mean Asians
(industrial sector) and Americans will sweep in and take over. (I also
speak as one who today has received a letter from Wessex Water saying it is
now owned by a company in Texas).
We all compete -- for resources, for budgets, for attention -- and the day
we stop scanning the environment in which we work and stop thinking of
innovating, is the day we give up competing, and then our time is up.
I think you would be wiser to say:
"Compete ferociously, also via collaboration" rather than "shift from the
language of competitiveness to the practice of collaboration".
I made the same sort of point to a bemused CEC recently in a study
contribution where "Europe's rich cultural and content heritage" was being
lauded. Europe's rich cultural and content heritage is for sale in a
competitive market. Seagram has just bought the Philips (Dutch), Polygram
(German) and Decca (British) music recording heritage going back to the
1940s. And Disney has bought Winnie the Pooh (and is reputed to be after
EMI with its music recording heritage going back to 1898). Aggressive
competitors shall inherit the earth (Matthew 4, iv, revised).
2. All this intellectual property protection leaves me a bit cold. There is
no evidence whatsoever that Europeans are deterred from innovation because
of fears that their intellectual property will not be protected. European
protection mechanisms are no more or less cumbersome than those of much of
Asia and of the USA. The CEC is being nobbled by some loud voices over
copyright and intellectual property but, like much of the heat generated by
lobbyists, there really is no evidence that intellectual property laws, or
lack thereof, stop people being innovative. In addition, as you rightly
include in your Update, this also tends to shift the topic and emphasis
towards mad inventions (manufacturing) rather than innovative services or
financing. I admire the innovative competitiveness of much of the American
hotel industry (compared with much of the European, for example).
Anyway, keep up the good work!
World Development Report 1998 from The World Bank
Just published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The World Bank, the
World Development Report 1998 is titled Knowledge for Development:
"Because knowledge matters, acquiring how people and societies acquire and
use knowledge - and why they sometimes fail to do so - is essential to
improving people's lives, especially the lives of the poorest among us".
The report provides a good societal view, though there is naturally a bias
to an economic perspective. A useful background document 'What is Knowledge
Management?' (principle author Stephen Denning with contributions and
advice from a number of world experts including ENTOVATION founder Debra
Amidon) also gives insights into the World Bank's own knowledge management
"aimed at making the Bank a clearing-house for knowledge about development
not only a corporate memory of best practices, but also a collector and
disseminator of the best development knowledge from outside organizations."
This report is well worth a read to broaden your knowledge perspectives.
Knowledge Management Magazine. Launched to coincide with COMDEX, this new
magazine from CurtCo Freedom Group has a good mix of features including
Knowledge Collaboration, The Cost of Lost Knowledge (with a good example of
lost drawings of NASA's Saturn rocket), and Knowledge Management at
Pillsbury. Sections include The Knowledge (Roots, Drivers, Lenses and Future),
'Levers and Pulleys' (the technology bit), and Working Knowledge. Like all
new magazines, it will be interesting to see if the publishers can
successfully rise to the challenge of making the second edition match the
quality of this first excellent issue.
Update (August 1999) - I'm pleased to report that the quality has been upheld and I, for one, am a subscriber and avid reader - Ed
We continue to get many positive comments about our Web sites
(http://www.skyrme.com and http://www.entovation.com) which are used
extensively by students, researchers, business executives and many, many
consultants! Although we try and reply to every email individually,
unfortunately we do not have the resources to act as research supervisors,
librarians or consultants, except on a fee paying basis. We believe that
our best contribution to sharing our knowledge, at least in explicit form,
will be to keep improving the content and navigation of our interconnected
sites. One of these days (soon!) we will:
a. Revamp the colour schemes (the problem is that whatever colour one
person likes, another does not - we could go back to plain black on white -
what do you think?)
b. Do some knowledge editing - categorizing the information - after all, 25
I3 UPDATES and 16 Management Insight briefings, not to mention the various tools such as the Litmus test all add up to several full books!
c. Extensively update the KM resources page, add a KM Tools Page and list
of Case Studies.
However, what we will not do is add Java, frames, lots of images and other
gimmicks that detract from the overall content.
Update - Both web sites were completely redesigned and updated during Fall 1999.
In the meantime, you might like to follow the tracks of a practitioner from
a food company in Mexico:
"I have surfed your web site (http://www.entovation.com) and have printed
out a number of things to study. The chart below (Contrast of Management
Styles, published as Exhibit 6 in Collaborative Innovation and the
Knowledge Economy, CMA (firstname.lastname@example.org) and simplified at
http://www.entovation.com/backgrnd/art.htm) and the R&D chart
(http://www.entovation.com/backgrnd/fifthgen.htm) at the site are most
interesting. Thank you for posting them!"
13-15 October. KM Expo '98, Chicago.
16-17 October. Complementary Currencies and Creating New Waves, Portsmouth.
Survive the global economic meltdown: "a portfolio of best practice
worldwide and future options in local and complementary currencies.
22-23 October. Third Annual Symposium on Knowledge Management "Lessons
from the Leading Edge", Williamsburg, Virginia. APQC.
25-30 October. International Conference on Complex Systems, with
pre-conference event 'Complexity and Management' 22-25 Oct, Boston.
25-28 October. "Capitalizing on Knowledge", Chantilly, Virginia. Billed as
a "prestigious, annual strategic forum with powerhouse keynote speakers",
Email: email@example.com and http://www.knowledgeinc.com
28-30 October. Corporate Innovation Management Conference, Amsterdam.
Includes exhibition of solutions from Intranet and KM suppliers. First
2-9 November. Fourth European Telework Week. Events across Europe.
(For other telework events visit the events calendar at European Telework
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
Tel: +44 171 613 7500 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
5-6 November. Knowledge Summit 98, London. Closing session will be David
Skyrme on The Future of Knowledge Management. Business Intelligence.
9-10 November. Using Intranets for Effective Knowledge Management. San
16-18 November. Knowledge Management for Chemicals '98, Amsterdam.
including Interactive Workshops. First Conferences.
2-4 December. Knowledge Management in the Telecommunications Industry, New
Orleans. ACT Conferences.
Contact Nancy Smith 417 889 9300
8-9 December. Knowledge Management '98, London (not to be confused with
Knowledge Summit '98!). Usurping the Business Intelligence label, this is
The Strategic Planning Society Conference.
Tel: +44 171 608 3491
8-9 December. Knowledge Management and the HR Function, London. Ark
8-10 December, 1998. Knowledge Management Conference/Data Warehouse
Summit, Phoenix, AZ. DCI.
© Copyright, 1998. David Skyrme Associates Limited and Authors - All rights reserved.
This newsletter is copyright material. In the interests of dissemination of
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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®
Email: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Web: http://www.skyrme.com http://www.entovation.com
® Knowledge Innovation is a registered trade mark of ENTOVATION International.