Introduction to the Global Knowledge Primer
by Debra M. Amidon

For our purpose, the knowledge movement has been in true motion since 1987 with a roundtable sponsored by Digital Equipment Corporation. It began as an innovation agenda - harnessing the ‘intellectual capital’ of a nation for international competitiveness. Peter Drucker may have written about the 'knowledge worker' and the 'knowledge society' years before; but there was little understanding of how fundamental was to be this transformation or insight as to how such a major shift in the economy would be led.

In the mid-1980's, Karl-Erik Sveiby provided the European roots by writing 'The Know-How Company' and Hiroyuki Itami (a student of Ikujiru Nonaka) did the same with 'Invisible Assets' in Japan. At that time, few had an understanding of how universal would be the modern managerial concepts to take us well beyond Taylorism and the Alfred P. Sloan divisionalization practices suitable for General Motors in the 1940's.

Today - almost 15 years later, the knowledge community spans all countries - in both developing and industrialized nations. This is a movement born out of practice, not theory. In fact, the new concepts and methodologies are being developed ‘real-time’ as solutions to today's complex management dilemmas. We now know that there is no such thing as a non-knowledge industry. In the early days, many wrote about the differences between knowledge-intensive industries inferring that the services sector was knowledge intensive and the high-tech or manufacturing firms were not. Then, there were writings that the knowledge economy represented the high-technology industries; and non-technology firms were not. Managerially, they are identical - although what does differentiate them is the nature of their business, the maturity of a given industry and how they utilize their knowledge base, however that may be defined.

We also know that leadership can - and must - come from everywhere in the enterprise. We have observed the evolution of the Finance community embracing the notions of intangible assets. The Human Resource community is leveraging the concepts of leadership, learning and networked organization structures. The IT community realized that the focus is not on information at all, but the knowledge that is created shared and applied in an organization - the innovation process! R&D long considered the idea engine for most companies has discovered that good ideas do not necessarily reside within R&D or even inside the corporation. Research shows that the majority of new product ideas actually come from external sources of knowledge. What is needed are suitable management technologies to evaluate and incubate those ideas into viable products and services.

Recent studies and publication produced by the European Union, the OECD and The World Bank indicate that this transformation is not limited to companies or on the micro-economic level. There is real evidence that the macro-economic implications, and meso-economic for those familiar with nation-wide initiatives, are equally profound. We are dealing with a resource (i.e., knowledge) that multiplies when used rather than being depleted. We are dealing with a unique asset, the very nature thereof promoted a market distinctiveness that defies duplication. And it is precisely what makes the Knowledge Economy both human and humane.

As our Network has grown over the years, so has our own understanding of diverse cultures, the value of interdependence and the leadership that comes from senior executives and students of what we will call the Knowledge Millennium Generation. There have been several articles that appeared in our newsletter - I3 Update/ENTOVATION News - where we feature ENTOVATION colleagues with values, competencies and vision that are valuable. What follows is a compilation of these articles that feature expertise and initiative from all corners of the Globe - North and South America, Europe, Asia and down under.

How then might we gain an understanding of - and indeed help contribute to - the necessary changes that will bring us beyond the enterprise perils of downsizing and the economic and environmental problems that plague or society? The answers lie within us - our insight, intelligence, and imagination - but not as individuals alone. We must experience a discovery process in which we can collectively learn, and take the initiative to convert our knowledge to action This fundamental concept that an international holonomy of expertise might have a constructive impact provided the foundation of the ENTOVATION Network - a constellation of competencies harnessed for collaborative (not competitive) advantage.



Evolving Global "Community of Knowledge Innovation Practice".
Registered theorists and practitioners linking every function, sector, industry and geography.
Global Liaisons
International representatives across North America, Europe, Asia, Russia, Latin America, Australia...
Experts in innovation dimensions (e.g. Process, Measures, Learning Networks, Alliances, Intelligence... Cyberspace.)
Business Partners
Mentors, affiliates and clients with architecture expertise (e.g. Economic, Behavioural, Technological, Political... Environmental.)
It was 1983. I had just organized a Knowledge Exchange staff that served as the heartbeat of the corporate function now spanning several continents. The business agenda was one of organizational learning, not technology development. The skills required for success was based on relationships, partnering and - as we now realize - strategic conversations.

We called it 'virtual R&D' - our global network of expertise. Even then, we realized the base of knowledge did not reside inside the firm. Creativity and new ideas often come from alliance partners, customers and even competitors. We knew there was inherent value in the modern enterprise that managed transparencies between functions, sectors, industries and regions of the world. More important, these connections needed to be managed and not left to serendipity.

Over time, we developed a variety of management tools and techniques to structure and arrange the dialogue among stakeholders - both internal and external to the firm. Even then, we made several planning assumptions:


The pace of networked communications will accelerate over the decade.

The boundaries between traditional research disciplines are fading.

The current emphasis on information is really a focus on innovation.

The network is both human and electronic.

Focus must be on the flow of knowledge, not the flow of information.

Networks will link science and society in ways yet unimaginable.



The Early Days: Phase I, II and III

In short, the traditional hierarchical management designs that served the industrial era were not flexible enough to harness the full intellectual capability that an organization required. A whole new management paradigm was emerging, which we now know is equivalent in impact to the inventions of first and second industrial eras. The third in which we now live - the Knowledge Era - is based upon the s and other consulting firms now offer.

We established a Management Systems Research function in the Office of the President to develop and implement management architecture - one of the first in the world. We documented the managerial history and vision in an internal memorandum - “Origins of a Knowledge-Based Firm” and presented the concepts internationally at the Grande Collogue de Perspective (Lyons, France) in 1991. In 1994, we formalized the Network by forming ENTOVATION (ENTerprise plus innoVATION) and began to bring alive a global network of expertise.

All along, we remained true to our core concepts, values and standards of excellence. What binds us together is a common language evolving to a shared vision. Phase I, II and II of the evolution took considerable time; but recently, the efforts to make connections among people in the network and monitor - indeed highlight where possible - their accomplishments.

Phase IV - Transforming into an Innovation System (1999)
How do we enter into an electronic dialogue where the expertise of one is accessible to the needs of another? It is not possible to connect everyone for every purpose. However, with the explosion of the Internet and increased receptivity to new ideas, experts at every level are far more open to the insights and learnings of others. The number of Knowledge Websites and Knowledge Forums has multiplied exponentially. People are searching, however, for more meaningful dialogue - where their time and talent is valued and can have an impact. Placing a subset of the network in communication around topics of mutual interest will unleash their valuable tacit knowledge in ways that can be applied to the next generation of management theory and practice.
Phase V - Leveraging Collective Competence (2000 and beyond)
Is it possible to evolve the managerial standards of the 21st century?

Yes, it is, but only through a structured dialogue. In October 2000, we hosted the ENTOVATION participation in Global Learn Day in which the ENTOVATION 100 were introduced to one another. 7 vignettes were published of the Network in operation. We outlined plans for a the Roundtable for Innovators from Around the World - 40+ nations convening to discuss how their countries are transforming according to the flow of knowledge. This will be followed by an 18-moth research effort determining the implications of the knowledge economy by function, by industry and region of the world. Out of the dialogue will come insights into to the standards for 21st Century modern management practice.

Symbiosis - Learning from One Another
As you've observed (in the holonomy above), there is a way for an individual to make a contribution to Society. One way of organizing the expertise in the Network is to use this graphic as a way to structure your own connections - roles and responsibilities. There has been an evolution from (a) Technology Transfer to (b) Technology Exchange to (c) Knowledge Exchange to (d) Knowledge Management; and now (e) Knowledge Innovation Systems. The value-chain no longer operated as a linear, time-consuming schedule of functional activities. It is a dynamic, more biological-like flow of knowledge from the point of creation to the point of opportunity or need.

What follows in the pages of this e-publication is a documentation of a journey from Eastern to Western cultures; from North to South. It provides a view into a variety of professional functions and different type of enterprises - profit and not-for-profit. You’ll witness a variety of regions in the world searching for an innovation horizon that provides a prosperous future. Where possible, you will get a sense of the new leadership characteristics of the Knowledge Age, trends that provide a foundation for a new future and the practices destined to become standards for 21st Century management.

It is a beginning…and good beginning. Imagine what can be accomplished in the next 15 years and beyond…together?!


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Introduction to Global Knowledge Primer