Knowledge Musings

Musings about knowledge management as I go about my daily life

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ideopolises - An Idea Fit For Purpose?

While updating my research for an update supplement to the report Public Sector - Public Knowledge I came across the Ideopolis research programme of the Work Foundation (see this report). It draws on the term coined by two US commentators - John Judis and Ruy Teixeira (see WordSpy for citations) in 2002 - to describe a knowledge-city region. The idea is that a city which is knowledge-intensive (e.g. more than around 25% of workers in knowledge intensive jobs) will act as an economic powerhouse for the surrounding region. Much is predicated on having universities, high quality research etc.

In theory, all very good. But to turn theory into practice (i.e. positive economic outcomes) requires several things to be in place, not least vision and leadership. Even before the term was coined there have been many examples of such initiatives. One familiar to me is the city of Austin in Texas, which in the 1980s was a backwater. With leadership from people like entrepreneur George Kozmetsky, it has turned itself into a world-class knowledge city, with many knowledge intensive companies, and also start-ups like Dell, which is .. well.. no longer a start-up!

Another theme that comes out of all such successful initiatives is that of connectivity. I would go even further than the authors of the report venture and stress also the need for deep collaboration. This is a critical factor is turning all those academic and other ideas into real knowledge-intensive products and services of economic value. Studies of knowledge commercialization (happens to be the title of a book I wrote!) in R&D provide good examples of what works and what doesn't.

The pity to me is that many people who write and practice at the city-region macro-economic level demonstrate little real understanding of the application of knowledge management as used in corporate settings. Or sometimes they stumble across almost by accident, key factors and practices that are well understood in the corporate KM community. As good as it is, the Work Foundation report draws little from this pool of existing knowledge. Of course, it is important to draw on existing regional development and other knowledge. I just wish there was more connectivity - and collaboration - between researchers and practitioners who operate in these two different spheres.

Then perhaps the concept of Ideopolis will be truly fit for purpose.

Labels: ,