28 April 2009

Innovation is a priority, so why not KM?

A recent Boston Consulting Group report shows that 64% of companies consider innovation as one of their top 3 priorities. This is less than the 72% in 2006 but still high in the current difficult economy. That is good and understandable but then why is Knowledge Management not a priority as well as a result? You cannot foster innovation throughout a company wihout effective and efficient knowledge sharing processes.

Apple, Google and Toyota took the top 3 spots of the most innovative companies. Unsurprisingly, these 3 are regularly at the top of the global Most Admired Knowledge Enterprises (MAKE). In the 2008 ranking, they were in the 7th, 2nd and 4th place respectively.
In fact, 9 of the 20 global MAKE companies last year are among the BCG top 50 innovative companies including 5 of the top 6 !

These organisations have understood that innovation does not only sit in the R&D labs, it is to be fostered everywhere. Innovation implies effective collaboration between individuals, teams, deparments and companies, and effective collaboration implies in turn effective knowledge sharing between all these actors.

All these companies above invest heavily in knowledge management and would typically have managers with formal KM responsibilities. But then why is it that the companies with such formal and significant KM are still such a minority? What will it take for leaders to realise en masse the importance of KM?

26 April 2009

Is sharing knowledge really desirable in a business?

A. Imagine a company where no knowledge is shared. Only information is passed on between employees within pre-defined operational processes. Each employee exchange information only to their immediate colleagues, either within their team/department or with the colleagues in the next/precedent levels in the operational chain.

B. Imagine a company where all knowledge (tacit or explicit) is shared. All employees share their individual and collective (team/department) knowledge with every one else within the company. Each employee is free to share his/her knowledge with anyone else and to ask anyone for his/her knowledge on any subject (of a professional and non-confidential nature).

My question is simple: which of these two extremes is likely to generate the most successful business, assuming they would be both in the same market(s) and every other parameters equal (eg. number of employees, age) ?

I will expand on this question later on but for now, let me just say that for anyone answering B, please give me strong arguments because the majority of businesses today are still closer to extreme A.