Entovation International
The Sound of ALPBACH - Austria Defining Their Future
by Debra M. Amidon

It is designed as a Davos-like meeting of the minds, but for the leaders of Austria. This annual meeting - co-sponsored y the Austria Research Centers - he Federation of Austria Industry and the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation dedicated several days in August for their weeklong activity - “Knowledge as a Production Factor.” Hundreds were in attendance, with sessions ranging from Nobel Laureates to children (ages 8-18) whom participated in Junior ALPBACH.

In addition to several notable faculty and business leaders from Austria, there were also presentations from the OECD, Singapore, UK, Brazil, Belgium, Slovenia, Germany, Sweden, Finland, France, Switzerland and the United States. Upon invitation of Dr. Ursula Schneider ursula.schneider@kfunigraz.ac.at, Head of Institute of International Management Karl-Franzens-Universitaet Graz, Debra M. Amidon presented a “Decade of Perspective” http://www.entovation.com/info/decade.htm as a way to illustrate the evolution of the knowledge movement and specific case examples of leadership in practice. She even described the case of knowledge (mis) management in Digital Equipment Corporation in contrast with the management of strategic conversations exhibited by Analog Devices.

In the opening address, Caspar Einem, Federal Minister of Science and Transport, described the need “to create an environment - decentralized to allow for cooperation across borders enabling innovation, confidence and trust. It is not about the volume of land as much as how we use knowledge - the static versus the dynamic approach.” He continued, “No longer are we dependent upon financial or land ownership that yields competitive advantage; it is knowledge and innovation!”

Nobel Laureate for Physics, Charles Townes provided a thought-provoking assessment of the interrelationship of science, religion, the scientific method and scientific faith - an interesting combination of disciplines, methodologies and what might be described as attributes of a knowledge economy - unusual laws, consistent, reliable, worthwhile, the value of truth, including objectivity. “As we explore what constitutes knowledge of the 21st century, our understanding will change and we will witness a reunion of science and philosophy.” Interestingly enough, this is quite similar to the insights of international author John Naisbitt at the conference ‘Re-thinking Knowledge’ managed by the students of the University of Cologne, Germany. {Note hotlink to issue #28.} Townes concluded with a memorable advice: “Follow stars and scrutinize with a microscope at the same time!”

Perhaps one of the most telling presentations was delivered by Albert Hochleitner, Director General, Siemens Österrich, Vienna, and President of the Board, Austrian Research Centers. He suggested that the world barriers are transparent. Achievements of the past are losing value. Today, we buy, sell and use knowledge. Knowledge - and how to deal with it - is critical to surviving nations. There is a doubling of knowledge every 5 years. Size alone is no longer the yardstick for achievement. Along with suppliers, markets have grown - customers used to rely upon resource-based production; today, they can pick form many things. The focus on knowledge and the knowledge society is beyond the level of talk. Companies only use 40% of the knowledge of their staff. This is reason for alarm. Therefore, knowledge as a production factor has not been understood.

Examples of why knowledge has not pervaded our society:

TIME: There is little time allotted to deal with strategic planning. Less that 2% is spent on the future perspective. Some companies are even lower than 1%! Although the urgent business of everyday life is important, it is not as important as the future.

LANGUAGE: When we deal with knowledge, there are few common terms and a lack of common instruments when it comes to implementation. Standard accounting is based upon double-entry bookkeeping principles that remain unchanged. We cannot manage what we cannot measure; what we cannot count counts!

PROCESS of INNOVATION: There is a plethora of terms and terminology. Product innovation ignores process and social innovation. Innovation is often mixed up with Invention! One can only be creative when you have ‘know-how.’ Gurus in the tower are obsolete…as well as being wrong. There needs to be a visionary force as well as sober work and an adequate mindset that appreciates curiosity and an opportunity to shape the world. Therefore, it is not the facts, but our attitude toward innovation. We must not underestimate.

When we are filled with fear in the new Millennium, knowledge will not be disseminated automatically. It must be managed - mined, managed and sold. He had several recommendations:

Knowledge has to be identified. What knowledge is needed to be successful and how best might it be disseminated? We do not know what we don’t know! There is an overabundance of information. The Internet makes it difficult to create order out of chaos. We must find what is useful, communicate and disseminate.

Knowledge must be distributed. This should be among key members of the workforce and available when needed. People need training. The obsolescence of knowledge requires constant updating. It is not about face-to-face training; we must take advantage of using computers for learning. Computer-Based Training (CBT) now combines video, sound and image. We’ve had a quantum leap with Intranets and Internet. With SITOS, we can impart knowledge where needed and at a cost reduction of 30%.

New knowledge must be acquired. There is a fragmentation among disciplines. The old feels threatened by the new. Knowledge used to reside in R&D companies. As boundaries dissolve, its difficult to have new knowledge reside in R&D. This brings us to the complementing tasks of Knowledge Management - combining, coordinating and managing all members. This prepares the groundwork for new insight. People need elbow space for creating. We need to drop traditional hierarchical structures with workers assuming more responsibility.

Doubt may grow with the new knowledge economy; only those will survive who have an awareness of the enormous potential and harnessing it. It is not enough to know, we must apply knowledge - we must do!

Another compelling SIEMENS presentation delivered by Dirk Ramhorst dirk.ramhorst@hbg.siemens.de, Siemens Business Services, provided a description of their knowledge consulting practice that includes a mission - Enabling new business and fostering innovation by linking people to people and people to knowledge across the borders of business units and countries.

Ramhorst also provided in-depth picture of the “Xenia, the City of Knowledge.” The concept was originally conceived by Dr. Helmut Valkmaan as a program for change, innovation and reforms for enterprises - profit and not-for-profit where experts can come as strangers and leave as friends. It is a collaborative multi-cultural meeting place with kiosks, glass rooms, leadership hubs, a business district for resources and suburbs of ‘future fairs.’ What knowledge management means for one unit differs unit-to-unit. With different functional communities (e.g., Finance, IT, HR), perhaps they can meet in the middle. “Every time you think about knowledge management,” says Ramhorst, “you expand your horizon.” This location is intended to make sense out of the Tower of Babble and with clever visuals, such as a hot air balloon, generate a discussion about what knowledge is needed - a vision toward the future.

Work-Group Summary

Although the first day included presentations presented all by Austrians, the recurrent themes provided a solid context for the 60+ presentations the following day in working groups. Topics included: Knowledge Production, Know-How Management, Production Know-How, Technology Cluster, Research Cluster, Know-How Marketing, New-Age Banking, Innovative Forms of Financing, Knowledge Production, Technology Policy in a Knowledge-based Economy, Know-How of Generations, and more.

Some of the findings reported at the conclusion of the conference included: [Note: Please remember that these are insights on behalf of Austria’s future national strategy]

Knowledge has changed its role as a driving force in job creation a ‘factor of production’ equal to money as a resource to be managed.

There is a strong knowledge revolution in economy and society equivalent to the industrial revolution 100 years ago.

We are witnessing redistribution in the stock exchange value.

The major change for companies is the need to create clear, corporate visions and strategies for learning and continuous innovation.

Governments will have a new role from one of regulation to facilitation.

We will create a society where the success of people will be based upon their competencies.

There is a strong role for Science & Technology Policy for the entire chain [Note: ENTOVATION would say ‘innovation system’] from knowledge creation through dissemination, instead of traditional R&D.

Industrial clustering will become an important feature - concentrate on strengths of each, foster commitment from all participant actors and create the innovation infrastructure.

Regulatory groups must modify, adjust current IPR policies and practice.

There is a need for eCommerce intellectual property rights.

Money is important. We need to manage venture capital investments and tax incentives for innovation.

Government should fund the publication of success stories based upon technologies that were successful.

The half-life of knowledge is becoming shorter and shorter. Knowledge ages faster that we do. We realize we must discover new things with technological know-how to keep pace with the speed of the changes.

International globalization requires us to compete on the basis of knowledge.

We need glimpses into the future - scenarios so we are prepared for what might happen. Knowledge societies require future-oriented thinking.

In short, we must create the conditions for knowledge creation, diffusion and utilization - all sectors working together providing opportunities. The main challenge is to how best provide resources in the coming knowledge-based economy. This is the question for Austria and every other nation seeking to be a leader in the 21st century.

Closing comments included:

“It isn’t the biggest, not the fastest; those who communicate effectively. We need vision and values to create a future for all those involved. Those who focus on knowledge management must look beyond their narrow horizon - the interdisciplinary nature of potential interactions. They must look beyond the region of ALPBACH. We need to break the rules of traditional behavior. Early warning is not enough; we need action!” -Eckart Minx, Head of the Department on Research, Society and Technics, DamierChrysler AG.

“Successful collaboration is not a matter of technology, but a matter of people. For cross-cultural fertilization, we need to provide the interfaces. We must learn together - academe, industry, government and media - on the topic of innovation. In a knowledge society, it is important that knowledge not be concentrated on the few. In a knowledge-intensive society, government must invest substantial resources to make use of and disseminate knowledge.” - Kerstin Eliason, Head of the Department of Research, Policy, Ministry of Education, Stockholm, Sweden.

“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.

Next Stop - Managing the Future:

It’s less than a year way and already they have the theme selected - “ Future.” This is a nation dedicated to knowledge economy positioning a nation that has exhibited significant rigor in their analysis of the knowledge economy and Austria/s role. More important, they’ve included the next generation I their deliberations. As the final speaker suggested, “If only ALPBACH knows…”


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