I3 UPDATE / Entovation International News

a free monthly briefing on the knowledge agenda

No. 50 April 2001





David J. Skyrme


David Skyrme Associates


Contents - Next Feature - Knowledge Digest


50 Knowledge Nuggets

David J. Skyrme

When we started as an occasional hard-copy newsletter in 1993, little did we realize that it would become a monthly e-briefing going to several thousand people around the world. Sometimes it is quite a challenge - amongst our other consulting, workshop and other publishing commitment - to find the time to engage the brain cells and write the features. There has been the occasional lapse, but for the last three years readers will have received at least ten editions a year - and with special features - often more. We hope you have got as much out of I3 UPDATE / ENTOVATION News as we have. Certainly the positive feedback we receive after each issue (such as "the only thing I get emailed to me that I read religiously") encourages us to continue. The act of writing, after all, is a good discipline for organizing one's thoughts - so we too gain from our endeavours.

Now enjoy the nuggets.

On the Knowledge Economy and Knowledge Agenda

"Bruce Bond, former CEO of PictureTel, told a recent MIT audience, 'We are in a transition period between one era to another in which the old rules do not apply and the new ones have yet to be invented.' To reinforce the imagery, I described the trapeze artist who must let go of one bar before catching the other and for a moment is suspended. For many, this described their uncomfortable uncertainty with this future economy that is evolving." (The Trapeze Parable, Debra Amidon, No. 38, March 2000).

"The concept ('Intellectual Olympics') originating in Japan in the 1960's (i.e., almost 35 years ago) provides for a well-balanced development of the physical, spiritual, technical and intellectual power of humans. 'Knowledge and intelligence need to be used and widely shared for the sake of sustainable development of this our global village.'" (Citing Dr. Akira "Stoney" Ishikawa; The Knowledge Sun Rising in Japan, Debra Amidon, No. 46, Dec 2000).

"Innovation is emerging as the next likely focus of the knowledge agenda. Sharing best practice and continuous improvement will only take companies so far. The breakthroughs of innovative companies require a complementary approach, that of new knowledge creation, and then its encapsulation in products or processes. (Knowledge Management: The Story Unfolds, Special Edition, Dec 1997).

"We use the analogy of the Atlas (i.e. a system for depicting and measuring world views) and the metaphor of road maps to illustrate the migration from business planning to a knowledge-innovation strategy. We are discovering the increasing need for story telling, simulation, and sense making as a way to understand the enormity and complexity of the transformation." (Atlas of Knowledge Innovation, Debra Amidon and Darius Mahdjoubi, No. 32, Sept 1999).

On Knowledge Management

"The essence of knowledge management down to three things: managing people - since that is where tacit knowledge is found; managing processes - the flow and conversion of knowledge; managing information - explicit knowledge. (Nick Willard, cited in Will The Real Knowledge Management Stand Up?, No. 27, Feb 1999).

"It is work in progress - this conference helped many delegates discover that "we were already doing it", but generally only in pockets, and not at the strategic level integrating activities across a broad front. Much of what has been done has also not been made explicit. This conference has helped people realise the importance of "making the implicit explicit". We are creating something new together; we are all on a long journey that may never be finished." (Lasting Impression of KM '96, Debra Amidon, No. 7, December 1996).

"Just as you have to stand back from an impressionist painting to really understand it, so too in modern management is it important to step back to see the wood from the trees." (The Monet View of Knowledge Management, Debra Amidon, No. 10, May 1997).

"'Knowledge management' is an oxymoron, since the challenge is to manage something that is intangible, in people's heads and is context related." (Knowledge Management: The Relabelling Continues, No. 12, July 1997)

"It often seems that organisations are less intelligent than the humans within them. They make costly mistakes and few survive beyond half a human lifetime. Yet, "more heads are better than one". So what goes wrong? One problem is that of 'group think' where a certain herd instinct takes over from individual common sense." (The Unintelligent Enterprise, No. 1, Oct 1993).

"Whatever programmes of restructuring and reengineering are taking place, has your organisation mapped out its knowledge base? If it hasn't, how can it know what it is losing when restructuring?" (Knowing What You Know, No. 6, Nov 1996).

"Many knowledge management programmes seem to be about identifying knowledge, capturing it and putting it in a database. The use of the word 'database' just about sums this perspective. Once knowledge has been encapsulated in this way, it is a long way from the original knowledge from which the database was created." (Is Knowledge Management the same as Information Management? No. 9, Easter 1997).

"The cost of knowledge management is high, but that of ignorance is higher." (David Smith, Unilever, cited in Ignorance Adds Excitement, No. 45, Nov 2000).

"From Inward Focus on Knowledge Processes to External Focus on Knowledge Businesses - companies will identify how their knowledge assets can be recombined to create new knowledge-based businesses. For example, an engineering/manufacturing company might create an engineering consultancy business. (Ten Shifts in KM, No. 20, June 1998)

On Knowledge

"Knowledge brings new insights but it also brings new unknowns. There's a lot of truth in the adage "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing". (New Millennium: New Knowledge Challenges, No. 36, Jan 2000).

"When all is certain and understood, there is little need for imagination. When all is doubt and uncertainty, the imagination becomes a key survival tool. Without imagination it is impossible to consider and think about the unknown. Without imagination, there can be no living stories, only dead information. Innovation is the product of imagination and so is adaptation." (Meta View 3 - Knowing to Imagining, Jan Wyllie, No. 37, Feb 2000).

"Knowledge is what makes companies unique even within the same industry. We are just beginning to discover how to value knowledge in our organisations and the fact that knowledge has no value until it is put to use." (Power of Innovation Capital, Debra Amidon, No. 43, Sept 2000).

"Good ideas come from many places. Innovations are a product of the individual heart and mind not the research laboratory. You don't make a discovery for yourself. A discovery is a gift to mankind." (Kathryn List, Director of Junior Alpbach cited in The Sound of Alpbach, Debra Amidon, No. 33, Oct 1999).

On Valuing Knowledge

"We can argue the precise validity of the various formulas currently being explored, but the reality is that 'being roughly right is better than being precisely wrong," suggests Leif Edvinsson." (Where Intangibles Meet Innovation, Debra Amidon, No. 47, Jan 2001).

On Exploiting Knowledge

"Clearly, knowledge is seen as the engine for value-creation. What lies in the future is/must be grounded in values, competencies and the quality of relationships. It is an economy of open access rather than knowledge being perceived and managed as a 'private good'. The reasons are because of the bountiful nature of the resource and its quality to multiply as it is shared with others." (The Global Momentum of Knowledge Strategy, Debra Amidon, Special Edition, Global Knowledge Leadership Map, Feb 1999).

"What better place is there to start than by exploiting the knowledge assets of your knowledge programme? It of demonstrates to the rest of the organization what should be done." (Knowledge Inside-Out, No. 42, July 2000).

"Pricing will pose one of the trickiest challenges. The value of knowledge depends on context - the same knowledge may have high value to one person but little value to another." (Knowledge Trading: But At What Price? No.26, Dec 1998).

"Since knowledge depreciate quickly, learning to learn is increasingly important." (Knowledge Management and the EU Conference, Utrecht, I3 UPDATE No. 10, June 1997).

On Customer Knowledge

"Two people sharing ideas generate new ideas that neither of them thought about: 1+1=3. By making customers an integral part of your own enterprise knowledge base, you create a Strategic Business Network (SBN), which is a more suitable enterprise model for the dynamics of the new millennium" (Debra Amidon, No. 5, April 1996).

"Customers need to be the focal point of activity. What has changed, however, is the way that the knowledge of customers can be utilized. Progressive companies are realizing that a learning partnership is a most more viable way to build the long-term relationship they seek." (Customer Knowledge is NOT Knowledge of the Customer, Debra Amidon, No. 18, April 1998).

"Listen - every conversation reveals more of their needs. Are you capturing this knowledge? Many telesales people who call me definitely do not". (Are You Being Served? No. 21, July 1998).

"The watchwords are the 4Is - Integration, Individual, Interaction and Intelligence. Too often, there is a tendency to automate customer interaction and thus lose sight of added value human intelligence." (Marketing Knowledge, No. 39, April 2000).

On Virtual Working

"The most productive teams for knowledge work are small multi-disciplinary groups. e.g. 5-8 people with a variety of backgrounds and personality traits." (Virtual Teaming, 25 Principles of Proven Practice, No. 11, June 1997).

"We may trust people or things as long as they fulfil our expectations. When they do not, trust can evaporate quickly and take a much longer time to replace." (Virtual Trust, No. 19, May 1998).

On Management

"Alongside BPR, which is generally focused on high volume operational processes, why not give some attention to the management processes, those processes concerned with the future development and sustainability of the organisation?" (Now Its Time for MPR - Management Process Engineering, No. 4, October 1995).

"To succeed in exploiting your knowledge you do need vision, initiative, enthusiasm and evangelism around a coherent framework. And for this you do need Knowledge Leaders, wherever they happen to be in an organization" (Chief Knowledge Officers: Do You Need Them? No. 13, Sept 1997).

"Those who worried about justification didn't really understand what the new agenda was about and didn't get the benefits. Meanwhile the pioneers had a 'gut feel' or were willing to experiment, and discover the benefits later - many of which were not originally anticipated." (Measurement Myopia, No. 14, Nov 1997).

"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." (Collaborating for Innovation, Debra Amidon, No. 25, Nov 1998).

"The challenge for organizations is to support such communities (of practice) and make them effective. One potential danger of the focus on knowledge MANAGEMENT is that a degree of systematization and formality will stifle such communities." (Knowledge Communities; Helping them Thrive, No.15, Dec 1997).

"There is a judgement to be made between putting product ideas through formal processes yet encouraging informal experimentation; of allowing free and unrestricted knowledge flow yet protecting valuable intellectual property; of encouraging creativity yet accepting failure; of giving verbal support but not practical help and support." (Creativity is Not Innovation,No. 17, March 1998).

"The ENTOVATION Network is one example of how a community of experts can respect the competencies of one another, learn from a diverse set of perspectives, and contribute to a common language and a shared vision." (A Virtual Knowledge Officer: Learning Through Strategic Conversations, Debra Amidon, No. 35, Dec 1999).

"The bottom line. With intellectual capital and knowledge being a key resource - much more valuable than the salaries of the people who hold it - do you have clear guidelines on what you will and will not outsourced or contracted out?" (Knowledge Outsourcing, No. 40, May 2000).

On Technology

"The future contribution of IT to business improvement lies in three areas, the first of which is switching the emphasis on to the I in IT, i.e. information, through better information management and information leverage." (Tools in the Quest for Competitiveness, No. 2, July 1994).

"As always, where the work still has to be done is in the human use of knowledge management tools from pencils and paper on up to the most sophisticated thinking tools. The tool makers should not forget that it is people's beliefs, purposes, attitudes, skills and relationships which are both the source of the difficulties and the solution." (Knowledge Management Tools, Jan Wyllie, No. 16, Jan 1998).

On the Internet and Dot.Coms.

"For users (organizations) the challenges are diverse. They need to balance the hidden costs of their employees spending valuable time "surfing the net" against the personal learning and business development benefits that might emerge." (The Information Superhighway, Are You Ready for the Ride?, No. 3, March 1995).

"We expect to see general improvements in service, more interesting web sites with wider business appeal. There will be more 'paid for' services, and paying for them should be more secure. Watch out for increasing junk mail and also for the taxman and lawyer." (Outlook for 1997, No. 8, January 1997).

"Does it make sense when the valuation of Priceline.com is more than that of Delta, US Air and United Airlines combined? eToys is worth as much as Toys 'R Us even though its revenues are the same as only two stores (Toy's 'R Us has nearly 1,500) and made a loss in 1998? AoL is worth 1.4 x Times-Warner? Amazon.com is worth 4x Barnes and Noble with only a quarter of the revenues?" (Internet Stocks: Lengthening Odds, No. 31, July 1999).

"Do you really understand their (visitor) needs, wants, how they use the Internet, what information they seek for what purpose and what knowledge they value? If you do, you are probably a minority, since the majority of web sites are producer, not user-centric." (What Kind of K-Supplier are You?, No. 34, Nov 1999).

"Many portals are like "lipstick on a pig". However well you prettify the front-end (the user interface) it's what behind that makes all the difference." (Chris Gahan, BT, cited in Portals; Panacea or Pig, No. 44,Oct 1999).

"Looking at many corporate websites, I often wonder how many have actually been exposed to the same kinds of focus groups and user testing that the company's products are. It might help improve matters if all senior managers of companies that have website were made to get the public information about their own company and products only from their public website rather than internal sources." (Knowledge-Centric Websites, No. 48,Feb 2001).

"What's more, a good place to get into the humanizing mode of operation is to get rid of automated voice responses on your customer support telephone lines and make sure that a human answers the phone - that's what happens at one Scottish Bank. You could take it even further and set up a conversation centre (instead of the call centre), where your customer's can volunteer feedback by talking to to a product manager." (Humanizing the Internet, No.49, March 2001).


"Although the country (China) represents a developing matrix moving swiftly from an agricultural to an industrial society, government and academic leaders are studying - systematically - the implications of the knowledge economy challenge." (China: Accepting the Knowledge Challenge, Debra Amidon, No. 22, August 1998).

"The Internet, he (Jacques Attali) suggests is the evolution of a 'new continent' and it is destined to be a huge engine for economic growth." (Insights from Latin America, Debra Amidon, No. 23, Sept 1998).

"Our main conclusion is that the EU innovation vision is not bold enough. The knowledge economy is fundamentally changing the nature of innovation and, despite some laudable plans, we believe that the programme as currently portrayed takes insufficient account of these changes and needs to be more innovative." (Innovation Action for Europe, Special Edition,Sept 1998).

"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." (The Netherlands, Setting the Knowledge Pace, Debra Amidon, No. 30, June 1999).

"The geography of the networked knowledge economy places Germany closer to USA than to France, UK closer to Australia and Hong Kong than Spain." (New Map for A New Economy, ETD Analysis, No. 29, May 1999).

Email: David J. Skyrme

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© Copyright, 2001. David Skyrme Associates Limited and Authors - All rights reserved.

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®

® Knowledge Innovation is a registered trademark of ENTOVATION International.



Global knowledge economy

Knowledge management

Internet commerce

Customer knowledge

Dot.com winners and losers


Knowledge management: has it peaked?

Customers: a new twist on knowledge management

Virtual teaming and virtual organizations: 25 principles of proven practice

Measurement myopia; those who measure and those who act

Portal power: gateways or trapdoors?

Creativity is not innovation

Virtual trust

China: accepting the knowledge challenge

Innovation action for Europe