There is a great awareness of the benefits generated by the organization knowledge management, but very few of them really know how to achieve success based on knowledge of its members; It is why Professor Ikujiro Nonaka conducted a study to understand the success of Japanese companies such as Honda, Canon, Matsushita, NEC, Sharp and Kao; in which he could identify these companies were “knowledge-creating” which used to revolutionize industries and develop new products.
For Nonaka, in an economy where the only certainty is uncertainty, the one sure source of lasting competitive advantage is knowledge. When markets shift, technologies proliferate, competitors multiply, and products become obsolete almost overnight, successful companies are those that consistently create new knowledge, disseminate it widely throughout the organization, and quickly transformed into new technologies and products; achieving continuous innovation.
The characteristics of the “Knowledge-creating companies” identified are:
- The managers of traditional companies fail to understand the creative nature of knowledge and limited to “information processing” with a mechanistic view of the organization where the value is in the data, processes and formal structure; so does the value of knowledge is measured in process optimization, cost reduction and return on investment.
- Instead a knowledge-creating company managers seek to exploit perceptions, intuitions, hunches and individual tacit knowledge of its employees, and make those ideas innovation projects and products across the enterprise where qualitative factors are equally important, they will always they wonder and questions: Are the products and services embody the vision of the company? They are an expression of the aspirations of senior management and strategic objectives? Do you have the potential to build the knowledge network of the organization of the company ?. For which a key focus is the personal commitment, sense of identity with the company and a shared mission with collaborators.
- The creators of knowledge use “spiral of knowledge” consisting of four ways of transmitting knowledge:
- Tacitus to Tacitus: through socialization of people and exchange of experiences, observation, imitation and practice. This form has the disadvantage that knowledge is not made explicit therefore can not be spread in the organization.
- Tacit to Explicit: is done through the documentation of processes, best practices, lessons learned and work plans. This way if it can be disseminated throughout the organization but its content is limited since it does not reflect all the wealth of tacit knowledge of its creator.
- Explicit to Explicit: It is done through continuous improvement of processes or products, where you take a documented prior base development, improvement and what you document these improvements, this is the basis of quality systems.
- Explicit to Tacitus: This is done when people internalize the knowledge of the organization and incorporate them in the way they work to expand, extend, and reframe their own tacit knowledge. When tacit and explicit knowledge interact, something powerful happens. It is precisely this ex-change between tacit and explicit knowledge that Japanese companies are especially good.
- In a knowledge-creating company senior managers give voice to a company’s future by articulating metaphors, symbols and concepts that guide knowledge-creating activities of employees. They do this by asking the questions: What are we trying to learn? What do we need to know? Where should we be? About us? If the work of frontline employees is to know “what is”, then the work of senior managers is to know “what should be.” Or in the words of Hiroshi Honma, senior researcher at Honda: “Senior managers are romantics who go in search of the ideal.”
- The fundamental principle of organizational design in Japanese companies is “redundancy” or conscious superposition of company information, business activities, and management responsibilities. To western managers, the term “redundancy”, with its connotations of unnecessary duplication and waste, may seem unattractive. And yet, for Japanese companies this means levels of control, discussion, questions and enrichments of concepts that allows building a redundant organization is the first step in managing the knowledge-creating company. Redundancy is important because it encourages frequent dialogue and communication. This helps create a “common cognitive ground” among employees and thus facilitates the transfer of tacit knowledge.
- In a knowledge-creating company there is free access to company information, when there are differences of information, members of an organization and cannot interact on equal terms, which hinders the search for different interpretations of new knowledge.
- In a knowledge-creating company there is NOT a department or group of experts has the exclusive responsibility for creating new knowledge. Senior managers, middle managers and frontline employees all play a role. In fact, the value of the contribution of any person is not determined by its location in the hierarchy of the organization but by the importance of the information he or she provides to the entire system of knowledge creation.
- Teams play a central role in the knowledge-creating company because they provide a shared context where individuals can interact with each other and participate in the ongoing dialogue of which depends on the effective reflection. Team members create new points of view through dialogue and discussion. They pooling their information and examine it from different angles. Over time, their diverse individual perspectives into a new collective perspective are integrated.It is worth asking whether our organizations are managing knowledge from a point of view “Mechanistic” of the organization or are we really making us a “knowledge-creating” as they could be there the reasons why we fail to achieve the desired success, based on the great expertise of the members of the organization.© Nilton Zocon AlvaBibliography:
Nonaka, I. & Takeuchi, H. The knowledge creating company. Harv. Bus Rev. November -., P96-104 (1995).