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I3 UPDATE / ENTOVATION International News
No. 25: November 1998


Knowledge Management: Three Years On: Are We Confused? - David Skyrme
Knowledge Summit '98: Oxymorons and Healthy Cynicism - David Skyrme
Collaborating for Innovation - Debra M. Amidon
France: History and Vision in the Knowledge Economy - Debra M. Amidon and Eunika Mercier-Laurent
The Medium is the Message: Mind Mapping and Knowledge Management - Nick Duffill and Patrick Mayfield
Most Admired Knowledge Enterprises 1998
Readers' Replies:
- A Perspective on Innovation from Paraguay - Manuel Benitez Codas
- Nero Fiddles while Rome Burns?: An Alternative View of Knowledge Management (Extracts from an Essay by Ted Lumley)


Welcome to this edition of I3 UPDATE / ENTOVATION International News, a free briefing analysing developments and key issues in the networked knowledge economy. As the end of year conference season gains pace, now is a good time to review the progress of knowledge management and report on what is probably the longest established series of regular conferences devoted to the subject - Business Intelligence's Knowledge Management Summit '98. France is the county in focus in this month's ENTOVATION report.

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

David J. Skyrme
Managing Editor

Knowledge Management - Three Years On:
Are We Confused?

David J. Skyrme

It was barely three years ago that the current era of knowledge management reached the world stage. The Knowledge Imperative conference in Houston, September 1995 was probably the first to raise general management awareness, with Business Intelligence's Leveraging Knowledge for Sustainable Advantage in March 1996 raising its profile in the UK. That's not to say that companies were not already practicing knowledge management. As we know, many existing good management practices, such as sharing best practices or post project reviews, are now considered part of knowledge management. What has changed is that knowledge management has become a shorthand label that focusses attention on the strategic role of knowledge and acts as a stimulus to organizations to take it seriously. How far have we got?

No Excuse for Not Knowing

Since 1995-6, the number of conferences has grown from a handful worldwide to tens or even hundreds. There are around ten magazines or journals primarily devoted to knowledge management - and don't get confused between Knowledge Management (magazine published by CurtCo) and Knowledge Management (published by Learned Information). Management books with 'knowledge' in their title arrive at 5-10 per month, and there is hardly a major research or consultancy company that does not have a brochure on the subject, a line of practice or some survey or continuous multi-client programme.

Early Growth

All the indications are that knowledge management is still at the early growth phases. Although some surveys (e.g. Delphi) indicate 30 per cent or more of companies having some knowledge management activity, my own 'show of hands' polls in general management audiences in Europe typically show only around 10-15 per cent with a formal programme (although this figure was around 30 per cent a the Knowledge Summit whose audience are probably more 'knowledge aware' anyway). Whatever the figure, there are many organizations who have yet to adopt knowledge as a strategic initiative or to coordinate ad-hoc practices. Even those that do recognize they still have a long way to go. For example, Mike Barker of Royal Mail Consulting (featured below) says that they are two years into a five year programme.

A recent KPMG advertisement in Business Week sums up for me the current state of knowledge management. It shows a technician working with a horrendous spaghetti of wires across several large cabinets, with the caption:

"Never before has so much technology and information been available to mankind. Never before has mankind been so utterly confused. It's time for clarity."

Of course, knowledge management goes beyond technology and information, but it does help to have its essential foundations in place!

Beneath the Surface

Even organizations that have been recognized in awards for leadership knowledge practices are usually the first to admit that they are good in only a few of the many areas they would like to be. Many find it difficult to change the culture and make knowledge management more than skin-deep. The challenges of embedding good knowledge management practice throughout an organization are formidable. We are already hearing tales of failure, though I have heard no substantiation of some consultants' claims that the failure rate is 50 or even 75 per cent. Key techniques, such as after action reviews, learning logs, or capturing customer learning must become a routine part of day-to-day activities. This will only happen if:

  • the benefits of such techniques are recognized as beneficial, both to the organization and individual
  • the tools to do it are easy to use - sometimes a simple manual form or checklist is infinitely more valuable than a computer procedure
  • users have opportunities to learn the technique and improve their use of it (perhaps through a learning network)
  • senior managers give their support and encouragement, allowing time for learning and experimentation
  • the organization's reward system and environment motivates individuals to contribute to corporate knowledge creation and sharing.

And don't let people tell you that knowledge workers do not like to share their knowledge. Most people love to show off their expertise and help others. Too frequently, though, this willingness is abused by the organization. They get no thanks: "Concentrate on your own job"; their contribution is hijacked by others with no recognition to them as originator; their suggestions are ignored: "what's the point, no one takes any notice". All this knowledge that could help the organization going to waste! Contrast this commonly found situation with practices like BP's Peer Assist where people from several parts of the organization rally round to help someone with a problem, since "one day we might need such help ourselves". They are one of the few organizations where knowledge sharing is becoming the norm. No doubt the leadership of chief executive John Browne (see Harvard Business Review, September 1997) who actively promotes the learning organization and value of knowledge, has helped.

For most organizations, even after three years of increased visibility of knowledge management with many proven benefits, the stark truth is that the large majority have still to get serious about it. I guess we will be running these features for several years more!

Email: david@skyrme.com

Knowledge Summit '98: Oxymorons and Healthy Cynicism

David J. Skyrme

Following on from Knowledge Management '96 and '97, Business Intelligence ran Knowledge Summit '98 in London last week. Two other conferences had already grabbed the title Knowledge Management '98 - so how do you protect your title? Perhaps its just getting in there earlier in the year: will there be Knowledge Management 2000 in January of 2000? The real KM '98 had a good mix of cases - some old, some new. The focus and tone, though, had definitely changed over two years:

  • From knowledge value chain/processes -- To enhancing business performance and value
  • From best practice databases, sharing -- To communities of practice
  • From intellectual capital -- To knowledge trading.

Recurring themes were connecting people, building relationships and trust, and nurturing Communities of Practice. Frequently speakers were suggesting that a better term is needed - knowledge management seems like an oxymoron: how can you manage knowledge, most of which is in people's heads? My own simplistic answer is that the management task splits into two - for more explicit knowledge it's about managing your information resources, something that is woefully done in most companies; for tacit knowledge, it is managing the environment and motivating knowledge workers so that knowledge is developed and exploited.

It is difficult to pick out highlights from a conference with excellent contributions from many speakers. I will, however, highlight two, and summarize some key points from others. If you want more, then you can order conference binders and audio tapes from Business Intelligence (Tel: +44 181 879 3355).

BP - Building a World Class Knowledge Company: Kent Greenes

Kent Greenes, head of knowledge management at BP, outlined its practical approaches. At the core of its programme is simplicity: "it's not rocket science" and a strong linkage between knowledge management and business performance. The business case for knowledge management is rooted strongly in transferring learning from one part of the organization to another. Greenes gave examples of how accelerated learning within a business unit, such as within an oil field, can reduce the time to make a new oil well productive. Even larger gains, however, are achieved where such knowledge can be transferred from one field to another. BP's philosophy is very much one of:

  • Learn before doing - studying results of related initiatives; the Peer Assist process where insights are sought from people outside of the immediate team.
  • Learn while doing - reviewing lessons at each stage; After Action Review based on four simple questions: What was supposed to happen? What actually happened? Why is there a difference? What can we learn from this?
  • Learn after doing - retrospective project reviews and personal learnings, with a full team discussion on "what should we do next time"; this should also involve a customer for the knowledge.

By applying such approaches to development of the Schiehallion oil field in the North Sea, Greenes cited savings of $50 million in development costs compared to earlier oil fields.

Throughout, Greenes emphasized the need for people to use knowledge to do things quicker, better, cheaper, easier. He described some of the tools that BP use, such as the use of Communities of Practice and knowledge assets, held on BP's intranet. Users of these assets apply them in new contexts, and thus create new knowledge assets to enrich the overall knowledge base. Examples were demonstrated in businesses restructuring projects and entry into new retail markets, where knowledge from one part of the world was successfully used in another. Greenes stressed the voluntary nature of contributing to expert directories and knowledge assets: "When people get value they will contribute; it stays refreshed. If is has value, it lives".

Throughout, the human and organization aspect was stressed:

"relationships are important"
"make it easy for people to connect to others with relevant experience"
"take time to reflect: if you were to do this again, what is the one thing you wish you had known"
"the 'Yellow Pages' are for the people by the people".

He quantified the benefit of knowledge management as over $90 million in 1998, citing specific examples such as a refinery project - 9 days shorter, 20 per cent cost savings. Three key paths to success:

  1. Have a business focus
  2. Keep it simple
  3. Find a customer first

He is looking forward to the BP Amoco merger as a "merger of world-class knowledge"

Royal Mail Consulting - Learning as You Go: Mike Barker

Mike Barker, knowledge integration manager at Royal Mail Consulting, an internal consulting group of the UK Post Office, with 1000 people, went through some key learning points of their progress. As with many organizations, their customers are driving them to do thing better, faster and with value for money. Their business was characterized as "customizing knowledge for the postal and related distribution markets".

Learning Point 1 - The challenge of getting people on board. All the theory and models must be put into the user context with language that they understand in their environment. Stories are important - real examples of the benefits of knowledge management in their situation.

Learning Point 2 - Manage for clarity. Simplify the number of initiatives. Make clear where each fits (RM have 25 separate projects in their 1998 programme). Adapt organization roles and structures to fit. Above all, a supportive culture is needed, where people contribute knowledge for the benefit of the rest of the organization, not just themselves.

Learning Point 3 - Develop measures to indicate what is important. Consider a balanced scorecard for knowledge management. Orient performance indicators e.g. criteria for updating CVs for experts directory, measures of innovation brought to assignments, use of lessons learned.

Learning Point 4 - Technology helps where there is a clear process. barker explained how corroborative software, TeamWeb, brought quicker closure on defining purpose, values, activities etc. than facilitated face-to-face sessions. By codifying on Lotus Notes proposal, dialogue, agreement, commitments etc. teams of up to 15 people are able to reach closure much quicker.

Learning Point 5 - Information acquisition skills are poor. People are more comfortable in hitting the "search" facility on Alta Vista, and getting 1 million hits, rather than using focussed resources or intelligent agents. Hence, RM Consulting is experimenting with intelligent profiling, so that users receive daily briefings of relevant information and are alerted as new information becomes available.

Particularly helpful was a map of different tools and techniques, according to the type of knowledge transfer e.g. tacit-to-tacit, tacit-to-explicit. RM Consulting are about half way into a five year programme. If they were to start again today, what would they recommend?

  • Win Support from the top
  • Map the process - define a framework and boundaries
  • Build a programme - describe the journey, integrate the initiatives
  • Integrate people, process, technology and structure
  • Involve the organization.

Highlights from the Rest

  • Knowledge Ecology and Communities of Practice (George Por and Mike McMaster) - knowledge cannot be managed in the same sense as we manage other assets - it "can only be inspired, nurtured and facilitated"; focus on the relationship and cultural aspects of knowledge creation, sharing and utilization.

  • Sudhansu Palsule, Anglian Water - Emphasis on drawing out tacit knowledge "which is why cultural change is so necessary".

  • Victoria Ward, Spark - The use of 'notional franchising' as a business model for a KM programme: "a knowledge team is the generator and guardian of working knowledge models".

  • Colin Jones, Rover - sharing learning of International Project Working (IPW). Use compass (discovery vs. prescription) and navigators (coaches to ask the right questions).

  • Tony Harper, Jaguar - knowledge based design. The rules for certain design problems are now codified such that computers generate detailed designs from functional attributes for body panels in 1 hour vs. eight weeks by traditional CAD methods.

  • Myra Johnson, Xerox - KM evolved from quality programme. Documents are "a human interface to knowledge"; Docushare within Xerox is "community owned and maintained document management". It is more than database - it is bulletin boards, collaborative document development and learning communities. "Copying is a virtue, not a vice".

  • Keith Rapley, British Airways - how the new Waterside office HQ was specifically designed as a working environment where knowledge sharing can flourish.

  • Stephen Denning, The World Bank - shift the focus from knowledge repositories to knowledge communities. Use Knowledge Fairs. Approach to 'Yellow Pages' quick and dirty vs. formal and mandatory.

  • David Smith, Unilever - justifying KM in not a problem when you consider the "cost of ignorance". Focus on what knowledge matters. Knowledge networks are crucial - connectivity, co-invention and community - but they need time to develop and work effectively.

  • Tony Brewer, Pivot Partners - exploiting knowledge assets; a check list for readiness. Three main approaches - problem solving services (consultancy); information publishing and knowledge-enriched goods or services of which BRIGHT (the network for smarter working) is an emerging example (http://www.bright-future.com).

  • Joerg Staeheli, Novartis - cross-sectoral knowledge fairs and network communities. As well as 'Yellow Pages' (internal experts) there are 'Blue Pages' (details and connections to external experts). Knowledge networking needs a shift in behaviour, technology (e.g. Lotus Notes) and a bit of magic!

  • Roger Williams, Cap-Gemini - new measures for intellectual capital performance, building on the balanced scorecard, linking a model of change, a knowledge navigator and a detailed framework for action.

  • Victor Newman, Cranfield University, who describes himself as a 'knowledge terrorist', argued the case for knowledge development rather than knowledge management - "What do we know that gives us a opportunity? How can we exploit it before it is copied and becomes public knowledge?"

  • Chris Valle - New Information Paradigms - KM solutions must be open and modular, context and user sensitive, flexible, heuristic, suggestive and transparent. He described a framework covering knowledge servers, knowledge middleware and knowledge clients.

  • Rudolf Frei and Niels-Viggo Haueter, Swiss Reinsurance - long-lived knowledge (over 30 years) - context, culture and infrastructure (knowledge networks).

Future Directions

In my summing up presentation, I pointed that as knowledge management evolves, there are emerging:

  • New measures e.g. of intellectual capital
  • New markets for knowledge and IC trading (cf. BRIGHT above)
  • New methods e.g. Communities of Practice, knowledge networking
  • New tools e.g. intelligent agents to "find and filter" what is relevant
  • New perspectives e.g. knowledge ethics

although 'new' is perhaps a misnomer - it's just that their widespread adoption is currently low. I concluded with an updated version of ten key shifts (I3 UPDATE No. 20, June 1998), noting that my shift from best practices to 10x breakthrough practices was probably the least that organizations should strive for (cf. the Jaguar example of at least 100x improvement). The shift from special initiative to routine was exemplified by comments of several speakers, that if they were successful at knowledge management, then it would be embedded as part of every manager's job and not need their position as a CKO. One questioner to the closing panel posed a related 'tongue in cheek' question: "Does the appointment of a CKO spell the death knell of knowledge management in their organization?" As always at these conferences, a certain level of cynicism, provoked some quality debate about a topic that is becoming a key plank of strategy in a growing number of organizations.

Email: david@skyrme.com

Collaborating For Innovation

Debra M. Amidon

The following text has been published as the conclusion in both the CMA monograph - COLLABORATIVE INNOVATION and the KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY (Society of Management Accountants, 1998) and in the article "Blueprint for 21st Century Innovation Management" (Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 2. No 1, September, 1998).

"The knowledge economy affords organizations and society an unprecedented opportunity for creating the future. This is a bountiful climate in which ideas will be valued, but only as they are applied to advance society - however, that may be defined. The answers lie in an effective innovation strategy - redefined according to the flow of knowledge - 'ideas to prosperity.' The mandate is quite clear; but he role of the CMA is yet to be defined. What will be the legacy left in ten, twenty or fifty years?

The role of the management accountant has evolved substantially over the past decade. More significant changes lie ahead. Responsibilities have already shifted from monitoring the financial accounting process to the overall management processes of the firm. Once the emphasis shifts from managing the tangible to the intangible assets, their advice and counsel will be needed more than ever. Not only are the language and concepts transforming, but the basic principles of the profession may be challenged. This can be seen as a real threat. Progressive managers will, instead, see an opportunity to shape the very foundations upon which the future will evolve. What was managed previously will be viewed as myopic in contrast to the multi-variable economy of tomorrow.

Management responsibilities will increasingly be viewed a facilitating the learning process which includes external stakeholders (e.g., suppliers, distributors, alliance partners, customers and even competitors). How these relationships are 'managed' is far more a matter of collaborative skill that competition competitive advantage with which most are so familiar. There are ways to optimize results rather than leave destiny to serendipity.

The focus on values, valuation and valuing will gain prominence as executives search for what, how and when to measure performance. Only when we have a common language across borders - functions, industries, countries alike - can we begin to explore the prospects for collective prosperity.

Given the identified trends - established, emerging and over the horizon - we get a glimpse of the fundamentals of the future. Implementation will vary - company-to-company, industry-to-industry - but coming to a common understanding our mutual mission could enable better utilization of resources - financial, technical and human.

Knowledge of the 'emerging community of innovation practice,' we understand that various practitioners throughout the value-system can contribute. How they are engaged in a common mission determines how they are able to leverage their complementary competencies. Rather than competing for resources and spheres of influence, individuals, groups, organizations and nations can realize what they have to gain through collaborative - versus competitive strategy.

The core premise of the future is collaboration. This does not mean that organizations don't compete. This is inevitable. What it does mean is that the shift in orientation becomes one of sharing and leveraging one another for mutual success. In national and global terms, it is described as creating the common good from which all benefit. We have experienced the previous eras of reliance upon resources which are depleted. Perhaps the era based upon the bountiful resource of knowledge provides an opportunity for true global symbiosis.

Organizations must create the integral connection between the value of human capital and economic prosperity. There is likely no better community than that represented by management accountants to bring clarity, meaning and methods to the process. What is equally obvious is that this cannot be done in a vacuum. Creating the innovation language, culture and shared vision is - by definition - a collaborative process. History will document how well this transition is managed into the next millennium.

Email: debra@entovation.com
WWW: http://www.entovation.com

France: History And Vision In The Knowledge Economy

Debra M. Amidon and Eunika Mercier-Laurent

It was 1989 when the Ministry of Research, Education and Technology embarked upon an 18-month economic development activity to network competencies in the regions of France. The foundation was laid for building a national innovation system with the conclusion of a Roundtable - Managing the Knowledge Assets into the 21st Century:

"If we can agree that the knowledge base of the United States is our most precious resource, then we can begin to manage it more effectively. This requires a re-thinking of how intellectual capital of each sector - education, government and industry - should be developed and applied to the dual goals of the advancement of science and technology, as well as the international competitiveness of our nation." (Amidon, 1987)

The final meeting was the Grand Colloque de Perspective held in Lyon. We now know that the agenda is not only national, but also global in scope. We know that it is not only a matter of enterprise productivity, but prosperity at several economic levels in our society. We know that it effects both industrialized and developing nations alike. We know that the focus on knowledge may not be new, but the establishing a knowledge strategy is the essence of modern management.

France had already enjoyed many technological advances considered the best in the world. Minitel, developed over 20 years ago and now with over 20 million users, was the French Internet for information and services, including transportation reservations. It may have been the first countrywide internet in the world. The country also enjoys several other innovations, such as Concorde (French-British), Airbus, Eurotunnel, Ariane, smart card (Rolland Moreno Bull, 70ties) TGV - the first FAST train (above 200 miles/hour) to link the country with other countries in Europe.

One of the earliest and largest AI projects, Sachem, is an innovative and powerful Blast Furnace (BF) operating support system, designed and developed within the USINOR Group. Embedding the best knowledge of the Group, Sachem analyses in real-time the state of the whole BF and produces recommendation of actions for the operator. It is operational on 3 BFs (3 others in preparation) and the expected benefits are of one euro per metric tons (11 millions produced per year). Contact Francois-Marie LeSaffre (fo.lesaffre@sollac.usinor.com) for more details.

Building upon some of the finest minds in history - Voltaire, Descartes, Sartre, and Beaudelaire - France has a rich knowledge heritage to leverage. Combine this with famous cultural and performing artists - Claude Monet and Gauguin, the country is well suited to capitalize upon the opportunities afforded by a knowledge economy.

ENTOVATION colleagues Jean Marc Le Duc (jean-marc.leduc@mesr.fr) and Eunika Mercier-Laurent (eml@ens-gestion.uvsq.fr) organized a major seminar with the Ministry of Research, Education and Technology - "Visualizing Opportunity in the Knowledge Economy" to an audience of government and industrial leaders, including representatives from Air France, France Telecom, Renault, Thomson and more. This lecture - the first in a series - provided insight into the rationale for shifting the orientation from Information Society to a Knowledge Economy.

Most recently, the Web Pages of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin (http://www.premier-ministre.gouv.fr) outline sub-programs ranging from new technologies for education and security of information networks to the new cultural poetic for networks. Although focused primarily upon information technology - could help bring the country into the modern knowledge age:

I. New Technology and Communications: This initiative will provide access to information and interactive access to knowledge. It describes the value of teamwork - how to work in groups for common goals. It promotes continuous learning in the enterprise, including the teachers. There are learning programs, such as 'automatic learning' in the home, teaching and pedagogical tools as well as collective cataloging of libraries. It describes the industrialization of 'savoir' with a focus on knowledge being for everyone - 'sans en exclure personne.'

II. Culture: This provides 'nouveaux savoir' with internet access to museums, 'patrimoine culture' and libraries for electronic tourism. It encourages multi-media activities for the press, a knowledge channel on television for bilingual studies in both German and French - originally established in 1995. There are plans to digitalize the archives of French songs and make them available with telecharge capability while still providing for protection of privacy and ownership.

III. Government Administration and Public Services: This provides access to an inventory of administrative procedures with an effort to connect people on the internet to exchange information, e.g., health, social security, use of smart cards, etc. - all in the interest of reducing the use of paper while providing for increased services. There is an effort to switching people form the Minitel system developed 20 years ago to the Internet by the end of 1999. There is recognition of the importance of electronic mail, video-conferencing and telework ways to decrease pollution. There are benefits of regional information systems as well as the modernization of the information system for administration of the government.

IV. Technology of Information Tools: This section provides for electronic courses and Website services for enterprises. It describes the mission of economic information, agents for diffusion of technological information and the use of natural language for workflow. It promotes not the generation of more information that places people on information overload; but rather provides a focus using tools (e.g., with high performance networks, data base access, etc.) to extract pertinent information - organizing the flow of information to the people who have the need to know.

V. Innovation - Industrial and Technological: This initiative focuses on generating growth and employment, encouraging technology transfer, support for innovative people to create enterprises. It provides regional action for the organization of research, especially the technology of information. It provides incentives to develop entrepreneurs, the networking of groups of competencies (e.g., telecommunications) and new competitive services for the Information Society. . There is even an effort to encourage all French enterprises and entrepreneurs to use 'fr' versus 'com' in e-mail addresses to promote a French presence on the World Wide Web.

Concurrently, the business press has begun to feature stories about knowledge management and support conferences on the topic to link people in the 'community of knowledge practice.' Claire Remy has articles on the movement - "Memoire d'Entreprise" and "Capitalisation de connaissances" The November 97 issue of "Consulting: Le Mensuel International du Conseil" features several stories on the topic, especially one written by Anne Liebmann - "Quatre Gourous pour le Management des Connaissances" It includes an outline of dozens of websites organized in two categories: consultants and knowledge managers. The most recent edition, September 98 features an article - "Veille et Intelligence Economique - Un marche de 800 millions de francs" and a new book by Langdon Morris - La Chaine de la Connaissance: Strategies d'Entreprise pour l'Internet.

More evidence of French leadership is Madam Edith Cresson, who Chairs the Innovation Programme for the European Union in Brussels (See the special feature edition of I3 UPDATE - Innovation in Europe (http://www.skyrme.com/updates/se9809.htm). Other sources of international expertise on the topic can be found at the OECD - Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development - that is headquartered in Paris. For the last few years, several studies have elevated the discussion of the benefits of a knowledge focus beyond enterprise productivity to the economic well being of nations - industrialized and developing alike. The bimonthly OECD Observer has provided feature stories on human capital, learning and society, national systems of innovation and the knowledge-based economy. In 1995 articles, Riel Miller and Gregory Wurzburg argue that there are at least three barriers to linking the value of human potential to economic value:

  1. The lack of transparency in the costs of labour and particularly, of upgrading the qualifications of skilled workers.
  2. The difficulties in measuring the productive capacity (i.e., the knowledge, skills, and abilities) which workers acquire through further training and/or learning on the job.
  3. Problems in reflecting the realistic economic value for qualifications and carrying them forward on the balance sheet.

In a recent issue of the Journal of Knowledge Management (September 1998), Editor Rory Chase (rlchase@easynet.co.uk) features articles on this expended view of the knowledge economy: "Blueprint for 21st Century Innovation Management" by Debra M. Amidon (debra@entovation.com) and "Markets and the Knowledge Economy: is Anything Broken? Can Government Fix It?" by Gregory Wurtzburg (gregory.wurzburg@oecd.org).

Wurzburg argues - and effectively so - current financial accounting and reporting systems provide too little information on the kinds of intellectual assets that would appear important in a knowledge economy. Moreover, there has been little progress in changing financial information, or improving non-financial information. He cites an article in a new OECD release - Technology, Productivity and Job Creation: Best policy Practices (1998) - that some of the innovations observed in modern enterprises are creating high performance workplaces:

  • Marked specialization of enterprises or business units (focus on 'core' activities)
  • Horizontal inter-firm links for subcontracting or outsourcing
  • Effective use of technology
  • Increasing flattened hierarchies in which greater importance is accorded to horizontal communication links.
  • Information is gathered at more levels and channeled hierarchically
  • Authority to act is less dependent on hierarchical models of authority
  • Employees are better trained and more responsive
  • Multi-skilling and job rotation increase, blurring differences between work activities
  • Small self-managing or autonomous work groups are common and take more responsibility.

On the other hand, progress in global knowledge innovation has been slow as evidenced by a number of surveys studied. Although managers consider themselves working in knowledge-intensive organizations, few consider their organizations effective at facilitating knowledge growth or even less at the ability to apply knowledge. The lack of progress, he suggests, is not because of a lack of top level management commitment, but the lack of the ability to adequately measure performance. "Slow progress in operationalizing knowledge management at the level of the enterprise translates into uneven transition into a knowledge economy."

As a country, the French are wrestling with many of the same issues and challenges are other nations of the world. How do they harness the intellectual wealth to create a prosperous future? It is a function of government, industry and academic interaction. It is a function of heritage. It is a matter of country leaders being bold enough to establish a vision which is not outdated by the time implementation plans are developed. It is a matter of developing a common language and shared vision among many different disciplines and trends shaping the future. It is a matter of building collaborative (not competitive) advantage with visible leadership within the nation, within the geographic region and influencing progress around the world. One thing is for certain: a path into to the future does require some insightful and imaginative knowledge strategy.

Otherwise, the future is left to serendipity.

Email: debra@entovation.com & eml@ens-gestion.uvsq.fr

The Medium Is The Message:
Mind Mapping and Knowledge management

Nick Duffill and Patrick Mayfield

When someone gives you an updated copy of the company organization chart, it is probable that the first thing you do is to take a look to "see where you are", or rather, assess the reach of available power bases. What lies behind this simple action?

First, we note that a diagrammatic representation is the accepted medium for organization charts. Only if you wanted to actively hide information would you consider writing it out longhand - the recipients would need to read it carefully several times to be certain whether they had moved up, down or sideways.

Second, it is much easier to discern relationships in diagrams than in paragraphs of text. This is because you are additionally using visual processing faculties as well as reading words, and a lot of evolution has gone into understanding spatial relationships and anticipating consequences. An organization chart in particular describes relationships, influences, and ultimately causes and effects. It provides an insight into the hierarchy which words alone would have difficulty in conveying.

Many other kinds of information are hierarchical structures, but are less commonly represented diagrammatically. However, the advantages of using a diagram are the same as in the case of the organization chart - a clearer understanding of relationships within the information, by using the visual cortex to help process the data.

Tony Buzan recognized this many years ago in his 'Mind Mapping' technique, developing the idea of using hierarchical maps to help with the learning process, and extending it with colours and symbols to trigger later recall. A key part of the Mind Mapping process is the development of skills in creating Mind Maps through understanding the relationships between pieces of information, rather than just trying to remember items in isolation. This exploits the mind's natural ability to link things together and recall connected sequences rather than random facts. A subject which is understood is far easier to remember than one which makes little sense. Not only does mapping out information visually help with understanding, but it also helps considerably in the creative process. Seeing one's thoughts on paper increases awareness of causes and effects, and makes symmetries and gaps more apparent. Thinking about fundamental relationships rather than just facts is a trigger for new ideas in the best traditions of de Bono's creativity techniques.

Pen-and-paper Mind Mapping has enormous value as a personal tool, but does not follow through into the phase where most of us operate the best - continuous refinement. It is typically easier to make a series of small improvements on something than to get it "right first time". Worse, relatively few managers in Western business are ready to accept mapped information as opposed to traditional documents. The good news is that Mind Mapping software has now come of age, providing an environment where maps can be endlessly manipulated and developed without showing signs of ageing. Detail can be hidden or shown at will, and the results can be instantly published as diagrams, documents or interactive websites. MindJET's MindManagerTM software, for example, supports concept mapping from a few early thoughts right through to a complex project, and all points in between.

So how does this relate to Knowledge Management? First, an environment which stimulates and fosters the elicitation process is a powerful tool, especially when used interactively. The visual feedback from the map creates a sense of shared understanding rather than mere information extraction, and helps enormously in clarifying misunderstandings before they can take hold. When you write something down, you are taking notes, perhaps for later analysis. If you draw it in a diagram, you are illustrating your comprehension, which is a very different matter. Second, the fact that a map shows insights beyond the words it contains makes it a potential vehicle for transferring knowledge as opposed to information, if we temporarily define knowledge as "information in context".

The army does not sit soldiers in a warm classroom and teach them how to be disciplined, and how to respond in life-threatening situations. It takes them out into muddy ditches, day after day, and just makes them do it until it becomes instinctive. It would be too costly to hope that soldiers could bridge the gap from classroom theory to ugly reality and draw practical conclusions fast enough to stay alive. Yet most of us make these mental leaps (in a business sense) every day, when trying to apply ideas from books or courses. This is the "medium gap", where potentially valuable knowledge is presented in one medium, but applied in another; such sacrifices are made for the sake of optimizing the interface at the point of transfer. Techniques which aim to close that gap contribute towards a more effective transfer of knowledge, on the basis that knowledge is not something you know, but something you can actually use. By far the most valuable parts of a textbook on applied mathematics are the worked examples, just in case they look a bit like your homework problem.

A flexible Mind Map also allows elements of the Knowledge Base to be cross-referenced in novel ways, re-assembled and mobilized to meet a specific client requirement. For example, suppose a service business offers a wide portfolio through a group of operatives, who are geographically dispersed in the field. Knowledge management can help identify and track such things as products and competencies. But can such elements be creatively and rapidly linked to a specific, unique client requirement? What is needed here is not just a repository of knowledge. The organization needs to identify potentially relevant and potent new configurations of people and products that could provide a better service to the client. Innovative solutions are often required, rather than simply relying on minor improvements to off-the-shelf solutions that may have worked in the past. The Mind Map provides an opportunity to take a different view of things: not only to see new synergistic relationships of items intellectual capital within a business, but to go further and provide reassembled maps as a customer proposition. Using a computerized tool such as MindManagerTM, either solo or in a team setting, these reassembled propositions can be developed quickly, and tested for coherence and availability.

The ultimate "cookbook" is thus a single medium which contains the information, the explanation, the worked example and the tool with which to apply it all to real-world problems. MindManager's Expert Package concept delivers just this, using maps to guide the approach to a particular task. This provides a framework which stimulates the user into developing their own understanding of their own task, borrowing some ideas and triggering new ones to achieve something beyond a textbook worked example. This combination of facts, understanding, experience and suggestions in a form which can be applied to real tasks is a potent example of the meaning of "the medium is the message".

Nick Duffill, M-Urge Ltd, http://www.mindman.co.uk
Patrick Mayfield, Pearce Mayfield Associates, http://www.p-m-a.co.uk

Most Admired Knowledge Enterprises 1998

Announced at Knowledge Summit '98 were the winners of this survey, based on responses from 300 executives from the US, Europe and Australasia. Sponsored by Business Intelligence and the Journal of Knowledge Management (where you can read more about them and the various subcategories), the five companies recognized for ther world-class knowledge creation and sharing were:

  1. Lucent Technologies
  2. Intel
  3. Monsanto
  4. Ernst & Young
  5. Xerox

Criteria included overall quality of knowledge programme, success in maximizing intellectual assets, contribution to innovation and several others. The top ten companies were all US based (though the US represents 55 per cent of responses), with Nokia the top European company, followed by Skandia, Siemens and BP.

A Perspective On Innovation From Paraguay

A Reader Replies

Manuel Benitez Codas

"I found very interesting your view about innovation in Europe. I had the opportunity of working with Europeans (Spaniards and Italians specifically) in a project for developing the wooden furniture manufacturing in Paraguay. We have a lot of problems in transmitting to local entrepreneurs the innovation spirit. After reading your paper I realized why we found that resistance.

Focusing innovation only in production technology based on research and benchmarking with European companies production techniques is not the best way to start. I agree with your view that innovation (understood as improving dramatically what we do today mainly by doing it radically differently) must be permanently present in purchasing, design, production, packaging, sales, administration, etc. The most immediate results occur mainly by just starting to improve the way we do things. After realizing that innovation makes sense (because most entrepreneurs do not think in that way) it's possible to start a more comprehensive innovation process.

I hope my contribution will be useful, at least to start a discussion.

Best regards


Email: mbenitez@pol.com.py (Ing. Manuel Benitez Codas)

Nero Fiddles While Rome Burns?: An Alternative View of Knowledge Management

In an essay, 'Knowledge Management', ... Sharing or Spectating?, October 15, 1998, Ted Lumley reflects on three contrasting emails, including the last edition of I3 UPDATE. Some extracts:

"Emile juggled three of the fresh messages in his mind, one from Henri expressing impatience with Emile's 'Bar des Pins' essay, suggesting it was symptomatic of the coming on of Emile's second teenagehood, ... another from David giving a journalistic update on the KM 'movement' and the third, from Jan, which shared activist impressions of KM from the 'underground'.

"How could he get it across to someone, he mused, who was hyperanxious to capture KM recipes and cook up quickie solutions, that there could be no recipe? How could you tell them that there were no logical frameworks, based on 'detached' observations, which were capable of inquiry into observer-including metamorphosis? "

Emile felt very content with his decision to drop out of active involvement in the corporate-culture oriented branch of the KM movement. As he had suspected it would, this 'mainstream' of KM had opted for 'voyeur space' views, ... 'logical frameworks' and 'recipes' which were blinding the KM practice to the horrendous 'metamorphosis' which was underway, which Jan's 'shared space' view was exposing him to, ... a view which showed us ALL being pulled into a vortical metamorphosis in which our 'logical framework-driven' economy-of-the-inessential, was beginning to morph into an 'experience-pulled' survival economy.

David's portrait of industry KM activity was right on target, ... a picture of Nero fiddling while Rome burned, and Jan's participative, 'worms eye' view of KM was equally 'on the money', .... of an oncoming tsunami of economic metamorphosis.

A close-out scene formed in Emile's mind in which Kepler and Heisenberg looked down on the KM crowd from the Goodyear Blimp, with Kepler shouting encouragements to, ... "Look from the Tower of Jupiter, as Jan is doing", and Heisenberg moving nervously around the rim of the cockpit, brooding over them like a mother hen, saying; ... "Don't forget the relational interference terms which are only present in the wave view, the ones that Jan is 'tuning' into".

High overhead, in an ultralight, Heraclitus makes a cameo appearance, his right hand stroking his white beard, as he shakes his head and says', ..."I knew Pythagorus and Parmenides were going to screw it up, .... the learning of many things is NOT what KM is all about".

Read The Full Essay

Email: emlumley@onramp.net


16-18 November. Knowledge Management for Chemicals '98, Amsterdam. including Interactive Workshops. First Conferences.
Email: shabnam@firstconf.com

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 Conferences.
Email: info@ark-group.com

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

15th December 1998. Knowledge Management in the Finance Function. London. With participation from David Skyrme Associates (see events). IIR.
Tel: +44 171 915 5055


8-9 January. Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning, San Francisco. The Conference Board and IBM.

20-22 January. 20th Annual McMaster Business Conference, "The 3rd World Congress on the Management of Intellectual Capital".

24-25 March. Knowledge Management: The Information Management Event, London. Learned Information.

© 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®

Email: info@skyrme.com    debra@entovation.com
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® Knowledge Innovation is a registered trade mark of ENTOVATION International.