Entovation International
The Netherlands: Setting the Knowledge Pace

Debra M. Amidon

Perhaps it was the early writings of Arie de Geus, then a planner at Royal Dutch Shell, who made me realize there was something extraordinary educationally in The Netherlands. In 1989, he wrote in the Harvard Business Review - "learning is the only sustainable advantage." Since then, I have discovered numerous Dutch beacons of knowledge light and in a variety of settings.

When David Skyrme and I helped conduct a survey of knowledge management for our research report, Creating the Knowledge Based Business (1997), we were able to contrast the results with survey done years earlier, one of which was conducted by the Knowledge Management Network (KMN) - also based in Holland. This provided us a longitudinal analysis of the evolution of the knowledge movement. Even at that time (1994), 80 per cent of their respondents admitted "there are critical business processes or situations where it would be valuable for more knowledge."

It wasn't long before Rob van der Spek, Kenniscentrum CIBIT, continued his leadership by hosting the 1997 Seminar in Utrecht, The Netherlands, under the auspices of the Dutch chairman of the EU. 'Knowledge Management and the European Union' convened - 60 international experts including the Ministries of Education for the EU countries, and reported findings that have illuminated many academicians, industrialists and government officials. It was realized during the dialogue that academic institutions are but a node on the learning network - a realization placing a knowledge, education and innovation at the heart of any enterprise future.

Post-Doctoral Knowledge Program:

Those Higher Education institutions have certainly take up the challenge and 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. Dr. Pieter Ribbers, architect of the program, and I have known one another for a decade when he first visited Digital Equipment Corporation and learned about our Management Systems Research Program.

Ribbers discovered in his courses, that students needed a cross-disciplinary design that integrates Strategy, Data Systems, Organization and Information Systems. With intensive courses in each of the four domains, a dozen students gained an understanding of how a focus on knowledge provides the interface. These students, representing a broad range of disciplines and professional careers (e.g., medicine, social work, high technology, academia, etc.) produced a thesis on a related topic to deepen their understanding of the concepts.

As part of the program, I was invited to present four content sessions on the following topics. Reference material is available upon request.

Part I: "The Momentum of Knowledge Management"

Interest in the focus on knowledge strategy has grown exponentially in all corners of the Globe. What began in 1987 with a Roundtable on 'Managing the Knowledge Assets into the 21st Century' has evolved into a 'Community of Knowledge Practice.' In fact, not only are enterprise leaders using this as an opportunity to transform their organizations, but political leaders - from both developing and industrialized nations - are seeing this rubric as an opportunity to catapult their countries into the next millennium. This session was designed to trace some of the trends, scope the various competencies in the knowledge community, identify the core concepts and begin to sift the fad from the fundamental. Participants created their own timelines and plotted their organization on the 5 Generation Management Grid.

Part II: "Creating a Knowledge-Based Strategy"

It is one thing to understand the core concepts of the knowledge economy. More difficult is putting it into practice. Peter Drucker says that innovation is the one competence required for the future and the ability to measure the performance thereof. Definitions of innovation will be explored as well as ten dimensions of innovation strategy. In this way, participants will learn to calibrate their organization's performance to create ideas and move them into the marketplace profitably and expeditiously. This section highlighted examples of leadership in practice from the recent Business Intelligence research report. Participants took the Litmus Test and completed the Knowledge Innovation assessment radar chart to calibrate their innovation leadership.

Part III: "The Knowledge Value Proposition"

The business value proposition has shifted from one of cost, quality and time to a far more complex balance of economics, behavior and technology. Knowledge is now seen as the engine of the economy and how to measure the value of intangible or intellectual capital may be the managerial challenge of the decade. Several models have emerged and accounting organizations and nations are moving toward establishing guidelines and even standards for measuring and reporting the hidden value of companies. This session explored some of the recent trends including the models being most quickly adopted. The discussion assessed the pros and cons of such a movement, the difficulties of determining the real indicators of value and the economics of intangible value - the 38 trends relevant to the knowledge economy.

Part IV: "Customer Innovation"

There is a significant difference between 'customer knowledge' and 'knowledge of the customer.' Few organizations comprehend the distinction - never mind put it into practice. Most organizations are still operating as innovation value chains where the customer is at the end of the delivery system. This session explores modern concepts such as 'innovating with the customer'SM and explores how to standardize learnings into products and services that could generate products at a premium price. Participants will begin to distinguish from the sales, relationship and partnering models in a realization that a successful organization might require a balance of all 3.

The second class in the post-doctoral program is already underway and soon we will begin to gather assessments of how these learnings are put into practice real-time during the alumni reunion.

Students Assume Knowledge Leadership

Shortly after the invitation to teach arrived, so did an invitation for the students of Tilburg University who were organizing their own 'SBIT Lustrumcongres Kennismanagement' for 30 March 1999. Sebastiaan Franssen s608882@kub.nl, one of the organizers, provided a program with expert speakers from both inside The Netherlands as well as experts from abroad. With over 300 registrations and an overall rating by participants of 8 out of 10, the conference far exceeded expectations with an overflowing audience and many sponsors, eager to position their own knowledge products and services. Plans are already underway for the next conference that will take place on 28th March 2000.

To prepare for the 15th annual conference,
the students developed the following mandate for their selected theme:
Dare to share.

"Knowledge is being shared more and more, within as well as between organizations, originating from the ever increasing necessity to be competitive and proactive to the market instead of reactive. Knowledge should create a solid basis for organizational empowerment. If, however, knowledge isn't shared and effectively distributed throughout the organizational channels, an opportunity to strengthen the organization is lost. Knowledge management creates, seen from very diverse and different angles, the possibility to strengthen organizations and therefore should become an organizational function.

But where resides responsibility for this function? How can the advantages of using information and communication technology be used in this context? And how do you create a culture in which people share knowledge without questions. So: Dare to share - An issue of organization, technique and culture.

Fast and changing is the environment in which organizations operate. Strikepower is of big importance. More and more the critical success factor of an organization is being able to get the knowledge out of your organization and out of the environment of your organization. But getting the knowledge out of your organization is not all there is. The available knowledge must eventually lead to adjusted behavior so you can react 'real-time' on environmental developments. So it is not only managing knowledge but also managing your 'Organization-IQ.'

So knowledge management is not only a technical problem. Trying to fully use Information Communication Technology is not enough. To often knowledge management is only seen as pure technology or pure as a organization question. So many times Knowledge Management is not correctly implemented because not all aspects get enough attention.

The impact of knowledge management on the organization needs a new approach. Working processes change and new technologies are being introduced. At the same time, knowledge management demands open culture in which knowledge sharing and learning from your colleague(s) is normal. This conference therefore propagates that knowledge management is a wide perspective. The three aspects - Information Communication Technology, Organisation and Culture are the keywords from which knowledge management is measured."

In the presentation 'Visualizing Opportunity in the Knowledge Economy,' I provided insight into the global implications of the knowledge movement. We explored the rationale for knowledge strategy outlined in the monograph Collaborative Innovation and the Knowledge Economy:
1. Knowledge (not technology) is the primary driver of innovation.
2. The value of human potential can and should be linked to economic results.
3. It is a systems dynamic that is operating, not a cause- effect value chain.
4. A prosperous future is based increasingly on interdependence, interaction and collaboration.
5. It is the flow of knowledge that must be visualized, monitored and incentivised.

We toured the Global Knowledge Leadership Map where we found several representatives from The Netherlands and well as those representing Holland-based firms, such as Shell. We examined the elements of the new knowledge value proposition, identified characteristics of knowledge leaders and began to envision a future based upon knowledge, not financial capital only.

Other presentations were provided by faculty, executive consultants in major firms such as Arthur D. Little, and executives from a variety of other firms who were implementing programs that serves as case study examples.

Alumni Not Left Behind

Alumni were invited back to the university to participate in a session - "Bringing the Knowledge Future into Reality." In one of the first efforts to bring alumni back to the campus intellectually, the TIAS faculty sponsored a program to learn about the international knowledge movement and how best to put the concepts into practice. They learned that momentum for the knowledge movement is increasing at a geometric pace and in all corners of the globe. The OECD is providing leadership for industrialized nations and The World Bank for developing countries. Most functions, sectors and industries are realizing that the changes are fundamental.

Harmony across Regions of the World

In a unique series of 'knowledge concerts' - a presentation combining the messages of the knowledge economy together with the improvisational talent of concert pianist Silvard Kool, we have been able to demonstrate that learning can be educational and entertaining simultaneously. Not only is Silvard a native Dutchman, he is a Boston College professor of biology as well.

Recently, our presentation - "Tour de Knowledge Monde" - was webcast live on the Internet via one of the knowledge guilds - ICUniverse, an affiliate of one the knowledge trading system - IQ-Port.

The IQ in Knowledge Management

Roelof P. ult Beijerse, author of the discussion paper on the topic, studied sociology in Rotterdam and now works as a research-trainee at the Economic Policy Unit of EIM/Small Business Research Consultancy. He offers a definition of Knowledge Management:

"Knowledge Management is achieving organizational goals through strategy-driven motivation and facilitation of (knowledge-) workers to develop, enhance their capability to interpret data and information, experience, skills, culture, character, personality, feelings etc.) through the process of giving meaning to these data and information."

The core concepts, then, are:

Organizational goals
Motivation and facilitation of knowledge workers
Capability to interpret data and information

There are as many definitions as there are individual practitioners and consultancies in the field.

For ENTOVATION, the definition remains - as established in 1993:

"Knowledge innovation is the creation, evolution and exchange of marketable products and services for the:
- the success of an enterprise
- the vitality of a nation's economy and
- the advancement of society as-a-whole."

Perhaps this represents the simplicity - without being simplistic - that practitioners are seeking.

Several companies in The Netherlands are beginning to explore this definition in earnest.

International Master Class

Being able to set the bar is only the first stage in being the leader. Continued evolution of the standard is the real name of the game; and this is where CIBIT excels. This month, they announced their new development program in 'Knowledge Management as a Tool for Business.'

They suggest that "Nowadays organizations realize the crucial role knowledge plays in determining their ability to compete and survive. However, making the step from intentions to actions I not simple at all." This five-day program is intended to create experts in the field.

According to the brochure, "The Master Class concept was developed as an education form for top musicians. Short intensive sessions, interaction with other ambitious colleagues, guided by an experienced master." They suggest that Knowledge Management is about smart ways of working and smart businesses. Knowledge is worthless unless people turn their knowledge into action. Enterprises should manage knowledge in order to convert it into benefits. Smart businesses should know how to:

Share knowledge across borders in order to improve business performance
Learn before, during and after activities to increase efficiency and effectiveness and
Learn from colleagues, customers and other parties to improve products and services.

The five modules of the programme:

I. Knowledge Management: An Update
II. Knowledge and Strategy; knowledge and learning
III. Designing a knowledge Infrastructure
IV. Organizing knowledge flow
V. Implementing Knowledge Management

And so, stay tuned for continuing developments in a region of the world providing us with models to emulate.


1996-1999 ENTOVATION International. All rights reserved.
Reprinted from I3 Update - 30.