I3 UPDATE / ENTOVATION International News
No. 30: June 1999
Virtual Organizations: The Fifth Dimension - David. J. Skyrme
Virtual Corporation Reveal their Realities - David J. Skyrme
The Netherlands: Setting the Knowledge Pace - Debra M. Amidon
Knowledge Entertainment - Tomas Persson
Welcome to this edition of I3 UPDATE / ENTOVATION International News, a free briefing analyzing developments and key issues in the networked knowledge economy. The 'Tour du Knowledge Monde', featured in last month's issue introduces a new and enjoyable line in Knowledge Entertainment according to Tomas Persson. There are also reports on virtual corporations and knowledge in The Netherlands.
I3 UPDATE is also available by email. See the administrative information page.
David J. Skyrme
David J. Skyrme
Virtual organizations operate in the physical world of three dimensions but they also have dimensions of their own. Like the physical world where the extra dimensions of time and gravity distort space, similar distortions take place in the world of virtual organizations. What are the basic dimensions of virtual organizations? The three principle ones are space, time and configuration.
Virtual organizations mean different things to different people, according to which dimension they use as their primary perspective. Thus:
- Space - these are virtual organizations that aggregate activities in different localities, usually taking advantage of technologies such as the Internet to co-ordinate their activities. Thus ENTOVATION acts as a virtual organization with Massachusetts (Debra Amidon) as a hub, but with coworkers located around the world.
- Time - virtual organizations that exploit this dimension are temperory alliances of organizations or individuals with complementary competencies that come together for a specific project. AgileWeb (see below) is one example, where virtual organizations are formed from its pre-qualified membership to meet specific customer requirements.
- Structure - Virtual organisations take many forms. They may be formal alliances or joint ventures, or simply a network of cooperating companies. OMNI is an example of a network of home removal companies that markets capacity and shares workload according to the locality and capacity of its members.
Virtuality operates at several levels. The above dimensions also apply to virtual teams which can have members located in different offices around the world, such as in global brand marketing team. Another virtual team is a temporary task force that forms to solve a particular problem.
The choices and combinations within each are large. Thus in the space dimension, an organization can centralize its dispersed operations into a few regional centres, as in the case of call centres. Conversely it can disperse a central office into regional outlets closer to the customer. Time can be synchronous or asynchronous. An organization may move its design work around the world according to time zones, thus giving it sunshine engineering capability - three days work in the duration of one! Although three different teams are involved, taken as a whole they are operating as a virtual organization. The different combinations and permutations create tremendous scope for innovation in the organization of work.
Knowledge - The Fourth Dimension
A fourth dimension, and one critical in the current economy, is that of knowledge. Virtual organizations and teams come together partly because of location and other resources, but most commonly because of the unique knowledge that each party possesses. Yet the knowledge dimension of a collaboration is often neglected. Who owns the knowledge generated within a virtual organization? Who can exploit it and how? I believe there are four areas that need attention:
- Absorbing knowledge from a virtual organization (VO) into the body of a participating organization. The Japanese are very good at learning from the other participants in their joint ventures. Many Western companies on the other hand keep the people in their alliances at arms length.
- Determining the permeability of the boundaries between the organisation and the VO. This means determining what knowledge is to be contributed, what is to be held back and under what terms and conditions it is shared with other VO members.
- Managing the knowledge generated within the VO. In anything but the most temporary arrangements, the VO should have a knowledge management strategy just as any other organization. After all, when the VO disbands (and even during its existence), this will be one of its potentially exploitable assets.
- Developing ownership and usage agreements for knowledge and intellectual property. Agreements need to distinguish so-called foreground and background knowledge, that which was known prior to the VO and that which was generated as part of the VO. Even for that generated within the VO there may arise different expectations on ownership and usage rights. It may depend on which parties in the VO generated it. Rather than get bogged down too early in detailed legal agreements, it is best to have a set of principles to cover these points, so that all parties have a common understanding.
The Fifth Dimension
In virtual organizations, there is another dimension that distorts the other dimensions. This is the cyber- dimension, that of the Internet, where location is imprecise, where time seems to run faster and where knowledge flows freely but haphazardly. Some of the distortions that the cyber dimension introduces are as follows:
- Cyberspace - the location of much activity is location independent. Clients dealing with an organization often do not know their whereabouts. While cyberspace makes operations and marketing on a global scale much easier, it does create difficulties where it touches the real world. Thus, where is the point of a transaction for legal and taxation purposes? How can clients get redress if something goes wrong? A key benefit of cyberspace for the VO is that its size can be disguised. It can appear to be a large corporation when it is not (do you really know how big the organization behind http://www.skyrme.com is?). What matters is how effectively it operates and performs using the medium.
- Cybertime - as noted above: much quicker. By exploiting technology and global locations, VOs can automate many of their activities for 24 hours-a-day fast turnaround operation. It means that they can collapse time by parallel processing e.g. using shared documents, activities that are sequential in the real world.
- Cyberknowledge - explicit knowledge can be made more easily accessible for clients. Virtual meetings and consultations can take place using videoconferencing. Cyberknowledge is more diffusable. Its also provides virtual organization memory. The VO's knowledge base can be distributed throughout the Internet and using the proper safeguards can be protected and made accessible for VO participants. With cyberspace providing a marketplace for trading and disseminating knowledge (see I3 UPDATE No. 26), a new way of enhancing or adding to the VO's products and services.
These five dimensions provide tremendous scope for innovation in products, services, and work organization. Organizations that restrict their virtuality to only one or two are missing out on the opportunities available. The intelligent virtual organization will balance five dimensions to succeed.
A fuller explanation of some of the ideas in this article appear in Chapter 4 "Virtualization: Networking Knowledge Globally" and Chapter 8 "The Interprise Toolkit" in my forthcoming book Knowledge Networking: Creating the Collaborative Enterprise, to be published by Butterworth-Heinemann in a few months time. To keep abreast of thinking and analysis of virtual organization work-forms visit the Virtual Organization Network (VONet) site at http://www.virtual-organization.net
IVCC'99, Charleston, West Virginia
David J. Skyrme
What's it really like to run a virtual corporation? What does it take to succeed? How can you remain agile? These questions and more were answered by those who have first hand experience at the International Virtual Company Conference at Charleston, West Virginia on 26th and 27th May. Sponsored by the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation (WVHTC) and the US Office of Naval Research, many of the types of virtual corporation described in the previous article described their approach and experience.
Bill Adams, Chief Executive of Agile Web described how 21 companies in Pennsylvania joined forces to provide a complete engineering design and manufacturing capability in order to purse opportunities that were beyond the scope of any single member. Its business development approach cover three phases:
- Assessing market need - identifying which core competences a potential client needs against those available in the Agile Web network.
- Creating business teams - for each potential opportunity a 'trust broker' brings together a team to address the opportunity.
- Formation of the virtual corporation - a virtual corporation with legal agreements between each participant is then created for each specific need.
This is a proven methodology that is potentially replicable elsewhere. During its five years of operation Agile Web has built up a core of virtual organization process knowledge that is now an exploitable knowledge asset.
A different type of virtual corporation was that created from a group of contractors and NASA civil servants to reengineer the control system for the NASA/Goddard Hubble Space Telescope. After showing some stunning photographs processed by the new system (http://oposite.stsci.edu/pubinfo/pictures.html), Ken Lehtonen described how a team of 145 individuals from 15 companies were modelled into a single organization for the duration of the project. Emphasizing that they did not intend to establish a virtual company, to all intents and purposes it is one. It is an alliance of core and complementary competences, best practice is drawn in from all participating organizations, it has integrated product teams and there are agreements on how to manage staff remotely (from the host organization) and an equitable award system. A key feature is the constant reorganize of team throughout the project life cycle. Lehtonen stressed that the cultural aspect of the project was the most important success factor. Truly 'badgeless' teams were created where individuals did not care, or even know, which organizations their coworkers were employed by.
Agility and Trust
Two recurring themes were Agility and Trust (the latter something that we addressed earlier in I3 UPDATE No 19). Perhaps these are the sixth and seventh dimensions of VOs?
Bill Nickerson of Pennsylvania State University described his experiences of building trust in a virtual team, in his case a mix of companies large and small engaged in high-tech manufacturing of shipboard systems. He likened trust building to an emotional bank account with deposits (courtesy, openness, honesty, keeping commitments) and withdrawals (disrespect, overreacting, ignoring etc.) "where the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant and effective". Key success factors he said were being clear with expectations and being consistent. "do what people expect you to". He warned that trust was often fragile, and needed continue bolstering since what had been built up over a long time could be destroyed in an instant.
Ted Goransen explained how agility depended on effective management of three interrelated infrastructures - a social/cultural infrastructure, an explicit/legal infrastructure (business processes etc.) and a physical infrastructure, each operating to its own set of norms. He used two examples of how existing norms and networks could be drawn upon for rapid formation of a virtual corporation to meet a window of opportunity. His 20th century example was the Hollywood film industry, and the 19th century example that of New England whaling enterprises. A rule in the latter was "never the same combination of people twice" since it brought bad luck!
Other papers looked at some of the key underpinnings of a successful VO. They included:
- National Industrial Information Infrastructure Protocols (NIIIP) by Richard Bolton - 'plug and play' protocols to enable a virtual enterprises in a manufacturing supply chain.
- Flexible Manufacturing at the Robert C. Byrd Insitute, Greg Morgan - what's needed to pull a team together to meet a big new opportunity.
- Implementing EDI in Small Manufacturing Businesses - Gary Bell
- Web Based On-demand Manufacturing by John Bradham - product data exchange and collaboration
- ACE-Net (http://ace-net.sr.unh.edu), Terry Bibbens - Access to Capitial Electronic Network to help the 'gazelles' of small business gain access to finance - a scheme of the US Small Business Administration agency.
Another set of papers considered different models:
- THE ICAAAC Model - Bob Travica - assessing different types of VO and the link with knowledge management by considering Interoperability, Cyberization, Anchoring, Aggregation, Alteration and Customization
- The Technology International Partnershipping Model (David Moran) - the components of a payoff/risk utility model that helps technology companies commercialize through partnering in a VO.
Information Age Teaming
One of the features of work by WVHTC is how they are supporting local companies, most of them small, in developing their business. One support tool, demonstrated by John Gaddis, is VCLink (http://www.vclink.net)
a web site for WVHTC members "an Internet Business Information Portal". It can help companies find others with complementary competences, as well as making them aware of specific business opportunities for which different companies might want to combine efforts and form a VO. VClink's aim is to build specialized knowledge networks to place West Virgian on the global map in five key industry clusters. An interesting aspect is its outreach programme, in which West Virginians who have moved out of the state can input their resumes and seek job opportunities and so "come home to the mountains"!
Roger Duckworth , chairman of WVHTC, summarized the conference by saying that even though the topic was virtual companies, that only by physically coming together could the depth of experience be conveyed and the sharing of knowledge be as rich as it was.
In this short article we do not have space to give each of the presentations the justice they deserve. You will find copies of all the presentations and photographs at:
http://www.ibip.org and the WVHTC web site at http://www.wvhtc.org
Debra M. Amidon
Perhaps it was the early writings of Arie de Geus, then a planner at Royal Dutch Shell, who made me realize there was something extraordinary educationally in The Netherlands. In 1989, he wrote in the Harvard Business Review - "learning is the only sustainable advantage.". Since then, I have discovered numerous Dutch beacons of knowledge light and in a variety of settings.
When David Skyrme and I helped conduct a survey of knowledge management for our research report, Creating the Knowledge Based Business (1997), we were able to contrast the results with survey done years earlier, one of which was conducted by the Knowledge Management Network (KMN) - also based in Holland. This provided us a longitudinal analysis of the evolution of the knowledge movement. Even at that time (1994), 80 per cent of their respondents admitted "there are critical business processes or situations where it would be valuable for more knowledge."
It wasn't long before Rob van der Spek, Kenniscentrum CIBIT, continued his leadership by hosting the 1997 Seminar in Utrecht, The Netherlands, under the auspices of the Dutch chairman of the EU. 'Knowledge Management and the European Union' convened - 60 international experts including the Ministries of Education for the EU countries, and reported findings that have illuminated many academicians, industrialists and government officials. It was realized during the dialogue that academic institutions are but a node on the learning network - a realization placing a knowledge, education and innovation at the heart of any enterprise future.
Post-Doctoral Knowledge Program:
Those Higher Education institutions have certainly take up the challenge and in June, 1999, Tilburg University graduated its first post-doctoral class in Knowledge Management - which may be the first, if not one of the first, in the world. Dr. Pieter Ribbers (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, architect of the program, and I have known one another for a decade when he first visited Digital Equipment Corporation and learned about our Management Systems Research Program.
Ribbers discovered in his courses, that students needed a cross-disciplinary design that integrates Strategy, Data Systems, Organization and Information Systems. With intensive courses in each of the four domains, a dozen students gained an understanding of how a focus on knowledge provides the interface. These students, representing a broad range of disciplines and professional careers (e.g., medicine, social work, high technology, academia, etc.) produced a thesis on a related topic to deepen their understanding of the concepts.
As part of the program, I was invited to present four content sessions on the following topics. Reference material is available upon request.
Part I: "The Momentum of Knowledge Management"
Interest in the focus on knowledge strategy has grown exponentially in all corners of the Globe. What began in 1987 with a Roundtable on 'Managing the Knowledge Assets into the 21st Century' has evolved into a 'Community of Knowledge Practice.' In fact, not only are enterprise leaders using this as an opportunity to transform their organizations, but political leaders - from both developing and industrialized nations - are seeing this rubric as an opportunity to catapult their countries into the next millennium. This session was designed to trace some of the trends, scope the various competencies in the knowledge community, identify the core concepts and begin to sift the fad from the fundamental. Participants created their own timelines and plotted their organization on the 5 Generation Management Grid.
Part II: "Creating a Knowledge-Based Strategy"
It is one thing to understand the core concepts of the knowledge economy. More difficult is putting it into practice. Peter Drucker says that innovation is the one competence required for the future and the ability to measure the performance thereof. Definitions of innovation will be explored as well as ten dimensions of innovation strategy. In this way, participants will learn to calibrate their organization's performance to create ideas and move them into the marketplace profitably and expeditiously. This section highlighted examples of leadership in practice from the recent Business Intelligence research report. Participants took the Litmus Test (http://www.entovation.com/rest/litmus.htm) and completed the Knowledge Innovation assessment radar chart to calibrate their innovation leadership.
Part III: "The Knowledge Value Proposition"
The business value proposition has shifted from one of cost, quality and time to a far more complex balance of economics, behavior and technology. Knowledge is now seen as the engine of the economy and how to measure the value of intangible or intellectual capital may be the managerial challenge of the decade. Several models have emerged and accounting organizations and nations are moving toward establishing guidelines and even standards for measuring and reporting the hidden value of companies. This session explored some of the recent trends including the models being most quickly adopted. The discussion assessed the pros and cons of such a movement, the difficulties of determining the real indicators of value and the economics of intangible value - the 38 trends relevant to the knowledge economy.
Part IV: "Customer Innovation"
There is a significant difference between 'customer knowledge' and 'knowledge of the customer.' Few organizations comprehend the distinction - never mind put it into practice. Most organizations are still operating as innovation value chains where the customer is at the end of the delivery system. This session explores modern concepts such as 'innovating with the customer'SM and explores how to standardize learnings into products and services that could generate products at a premium price. Participants will begin to distinguish from the sales, relationship and partnering models in a realization that a successful organization might require a balance of all three.
The second class in the post-doctoral program is already underway and soon we will begin to gather assessments of how these learnings are put into practice real-time during the alumni reunion.
Students Assume Knowledge Leadership
Shortly after the invitation to teach arrived, so did an invitation for the students of Tilburg University who were organizing their own 'SBIT Lustrumcongres Kennismanagement' for 30 March 1999. Sebastiaan Franssen email@example.com, one of the organizers, provided a program with expert speakers from both inside The Netherlands as well as experts from abroad. With over 300 registrations and an overall rating by participants of 8 out of 10, the conference far exceeded expectations with an overflowing audience and many sponsors, eager to position their own knowledge products and services. Plans are already underway for the next conference that will take place on 28th March 2000.
To prepare for the 15th annual conference, the students developed the following mandate for their selected theme: Dare to share.
"Knowledge is being shared more and more, within as well as between organizations, originating from the ever increasing necessity to be competitive and proactive to the market instead of reactive. Knowledge should create a solid basis for organizational empowerment. If, however, knowledge isn't shared and effectively distributed throughout the organizational channels, an opportunity to strengthen the organization is lost. Knowledge management creates, seen from very diverse and different angles, the possibility to strengthen organizations and therefore should become an organizational function.
But where resides responsibility for this function? How can the advantages of using information and communication technology be used in this context? And how do you create a culture in which people share knowledge without questions. So: Dare to share - An issue of organization, technique and culture.
Fast and changing is the environment in which organizations operate. Strikepower is of big importance. More and more the critical success factor of an organization is being able to get the knowledge out of your organization and out of the environment of your organization. But getting the knowledge out of your organization is not all there is. The available knowledge must eventually lead to adjusted behavior so you can react 'real-time' on environmental developments. So it is not only managing knowledge but also managing your 'Organization-IQ.'
So knowledge management is not only a technical problem. Trying to fully use Information Communication Technology is not enough. To often knowledge management is only seen as pure technology or pure as a organization question. So many times Knowledgemanagement is not correctly implemented because not all aspects get enough attention.
The impact of knowledge management on the organization needs a new approach. Working processes change and new technologies are being introduced. At the same time, knowledgemanagement demands open culture in which knowledge sharing and learning from your colleague(s) is normal. This conference therefore propagates that knowledgemanagement is a wide perspective. The three aspects - Information Communication Technology, Organisation and Culture are the keywords from which knowledgemanagement is measured."
In the presentation 'Visualizing Opportunity in the Knowledge Economy,' I provided insight into the global implications of the knowledge movement. We explored the rationale for knowledge strategy outlined in the monograph Collaborative Innovation and the Knowledge Economy:
- Knowledge (not technology) is the primary driver of innovation.
- The value of human potential can and should be linked to economic results.
- It is a systems dynamic that is operating, not a cause- effect value chain.
- A prosperous future is based increasingly on interdependence, interaction and collaboration.
- It is the flow of knowledge that must be visualised, monitored and incentivised.
We toured the Global Knowledge Leadership Map http://www.entovation.com/kleadmap/
where we found several representatives from The Netherlands and well as those representing Holland-based firms, such as Shell. We examined the elements of the new knowledge value proposition, identified characteristics of knowledge leaders and began to envision a future based upon knowledge, not financial capital only.
Other presentations were provided by faculty, executive consultants in major firms such as Arthur D. Little, and executives from a variety of other firms who were implementing programs that serves as case study examples.
Alumni Not Left Behind
Alumni were invited back to the university to participate in a session - "Bringing the Knowledge Future into Reality." In one of the first efforts to bring alumni back to the campus intellectually, the TIAS faculty sponsored a program to learn about the international knowledge movement and how best to put the concepts into practice. They learned that momentum for the knowledge movement is increasing at a geometric pace and in all corners of the globe. The OECD is providing leadership for industrialized nations and The World Bank for developing countries. Most functions, sectors and industries are realizing that the changes are fundamental.
Harmony across Regions of the World
In a unique series of 'knowledge concerts' - a presentation combining the messages of the knowledge economy together with the improvisational talent of concert pianist Silvard Kool (http://www.silvard.com), we have been able to demonstrate that learning can be educational and entertaining simultaneously. Not only is Silvard a native Dutchman, he is a Boston College professor of biology as well.
Recently, our presentation - "Tour de Knowledge Monde" - was webcast live on the Internet via one of the knowledge guilds - http://www.ICUniverse.com, an affiliate of one the knowledge trading systems - IQ-Port.
The IQ in Knowledge Management
Roelof P. ult Beijerse (firstname.lastname@example.org), author of the discussion paper on the topic, studied sociology in Rotterdam and now works as a research-trainee at the Economic Policy Unit of EIM/Small Business Research Consultancy. He offers a definition of Knowledge Management:
"Knowledge Management is achieving organizational goals through strategy-driven motivation and facilitation of (knowledge-) workers to develop, enhance their capability to interpret data and information, experience, skills, culture, character, personality, feelings etc.) through the process of giving meaning to these data and information."
The core concepts, then, are:
- Organizational goals
- Motivation and facilitation of knowledge workers
- Capability to interpret data and information
There are as many definitions as there are individual practitioners and consultancies in the field.
For ENTOVATION, the definition remains - as established in 1993:
"Knowledge innovation is the creation, evolution and exchange of marketable products and services for the:
- the success of an enterprise
- the vitality of a nation's economy and
- the advancement of society as-a-whole."
Perhaps this represents the simplicity - without being simplistic - that practitioners are seeking.
Several companies in The Netherlands are beginning to explore this definition in earnest.
International Master Class
Being able to set the bar is only the first stage in being the leader. Continued evolution of the standard is the real name of the game; and this is where CIBIT http://www.cibit.nl excels. This month, they announced their new development program in 'Knowledge Management as a Tool for Business.'
They suggest that "Nowadays organizations realize the crucial role knowledge plays in determining their ability to compete and survive. However, making the step from intentions to actions I not simple at all." This five-day program is intended to create experts in the field.
According to the brochure, "The Master Class concept was developed as an education form for top musicians. Short intensive sessions, interaction with other ambitious colleagues, guided by an experienced master." They suggest that Knowledge Management is about smart ways of working and smart businesses. Knowledge is worthless unless people turn their knowledge into action. Enterprises should manage knowledge in order to convert it into benefits. Smart businesses should know how to:
- Share knowledge across borders in order to improve business performance
- Learn before, during and after activities to increase efficiency and effectiveness and
- Learn from colleagues, customers and other parties to improve products and services.
The five modules of the programme:
I. Knowledge Management: An Update
II. Knowledge and Strategy; knowledge and learning
III. Designing a knowledge Infrastructure
IV. Organizing knowledge flow
V. Implementing Knowledge Management
And so, stay tuned for continuing developments in a region of the world providing us with models to emulate.
© 1999 ENTOVATION International, Ltd. All rights reserved.
SMInnovating with the Customer is a service mark of ENTOVATION International.
Tomas Persson, Management Consultant at Ericsson Business Consulting
On July 20th, I was fortunate to be invited to the knowledge concert that Debra Amidon and Silvard Kool performed at Skandia Future Center in Vaxholm, Sweden. The knowledge concert, hosted by Leif Edvinsson, was broadcasted
over the web. After the concert, I looked back and my impressions of the performance can be summarized in two words; knowledge and entertainment. Mostly, you go to a conference or attend a traditional presentation but this
was the first time I listened to a knowledge concert where the knowledge ingredient was combined with music from a concert pianist which ensures stronger communication.
The knowledge factor was one of the main ingredients that Debra Amidon provided with her knowledge innovation concept and the presentation of the "Tour du Knowledge Monde" and the global knowledge leaders and their view of
the global knowledge economy. The recipe of combining the knowledge factor with the entertainment via music from Silvard is a positive way of enforcing effective communication and rapid learning.
The new interesting ingredient was the e-factor (entertainment factor) that Debra and Silvard did together with the performance at the stage by adding music to the presentation and the webcast. Accordingly, the music was linked
to the origin / nationality of the global knowledge leaders where the tour started in Europe and ended in North America via Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. Interestingly, the music was covering different styles from pop to classical music where the idea was to strengthen the message in the knowledge concert. By using all the senses in your medium, you will be more likely to achieve a stronger attraction and communication of the message in the performance.
Maybe in the future, Knowledge Entertainment will increase where you combine learning and entertainment in the knowledge value proposition in order to strengthen the message and achieve faster learning via the e-factor. Joy is
important and the more fun you have the better you perform in business, arts, music, theatre, and sports etc. Therefore, it is important to find and include the e-factor in many situations as possible.
28 - 29 June. Performance Measurement and Knowledge Management. London. David Skyrme is speaking at this event. Access Conferences.
30 June - 1 July. Applying Knowledge Management for Profit, Amsterdam. 3rd Annual IKON (Innovation Network Opportunity Network) Congress organized by ICBI.
2 July. Managing in the Knowledge-Driven Economy. Bournemouth University Business School. David Skyrme is speaking at this event.
Tel: +44 01202 504213
5 - 9 July. Become a Knowledge Management Expert. International Knowledge
Management Master Class, Amsterdam. Kenniscentrum CIBIT and the International Knowledge Management Network:
© Copyright, 1999. David Skyrme Associates Limited and Authors - All rights reserved.
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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®
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® Knowledge Innovation is a registered trade mark of ENTOVATION International.