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pixel.gif (807 bytes) The ENTOVATION 100
Worldwide Knowledge Leadership
Debra M. Amidon
Founder and Chief Strategist, ENTOVATION International

Welcome to the Knowledge Millennium!

It has been only one short year when we first invited a diagonal slice of the ENTOVATION network to participate in the Global Knowledge Leadership Map. They came from a variety of disciplines, a wide range of functional responsibilities and representing 50 nations. There are some recognized thought leaders (e.g., Edvinsson, Nonaka, Pasher, Sveiby, Saint-Onge, et al) as well as newcomers, some of whom just graduated from Ph.D. programs. Some are CEOs or senior managers; others are government officials or academic researchers. There are experts in performance measurement, competitive analysis, and alliance strategy as well as computer/ communications technology. They are all playing a role in shaping our new economy.

A detailed description of the respondents and summary of their observations has been published in the ‘Global Momentum of Knowledge Strategy’ now available in several languages. As a reminder, the questions asked were:

~ What are your roots in the knowledge field?
~ Who has influenced you and why?
~ What have you been able to accomplish?
~ What still needs to be done?
~ What is your vision of a knowledge economy?

What these individuals seem to share in common is a sense of values, a compelling vision and standards of operational excellence to emulate. This is the reason they have been featured. They are not ALL the experts; the experts have their own forums. They are not ALL the students; they have their internal academic networks. They DO represent a cross-section of expertise that promises to provide robust fodder as to the implications of the Knowledge Economy. In short, I believe they are a virtual community of collaborators working for the common good – a new economic world order based upon knowledge. This will result in profitable growth for the enterprise, the vitality of their respective national economies and the advancement of society – both industrialized and developing nations alike.

Overall, progressive knowledge leaders see a shift from the focus on limited resources – financial, human, and technological – that pervaded the industrial age. With a grant from Siemens AG, we asked Jan Wyllie, Trend Monitor International to provide an in depth analysis (below) of the fundamental trends. By determining key patterns, we have discovered the scope of collective findings among this diverse group of knowledge professionals. What follows are the five Meta Views that arise from his process of concept mapping. Their comments have also been categorized according to the ten dimensions of innovation strategy and will soon serve as the foundation of an electronic dialogue over the next ten months. The collective insights will be available in a new forthcoming intelligence service.

In the meantime, enjoy the identification of the trends below as a prospectus on the future we are innovating! At first blush, these identified trends make seem like they come from Pollyanna. On the other hand, if these are legitimate, relevant observations of the shifts in our society, perhaps they do point a direction that can be embraced by veteran and new knowledge managers alike.

Meta View #1: Economy to Holonomy

A multi-faceted conception of a world knowledge commonwealth replacing the world of nations is proposed, as a means of going beyond the one-dimensional, zero-sum game of economics and interest driven money. The knowledge commonwealth, which includes what we now classify as social and moral issues, could not be controlled, or even led, although it might be balanced. In this New Eden, the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life grow together "into one tree", as thinking about knowledge becomes less abstract and more conscious, more concerned with diversity and wisdom, than the struggle between right and wrong.

If the validity of both nations and companies is being questioned, the key drivers and supports for the Western consumer economy are likely to be rethought out of existence. A new much more holistic concept of wealth is implied in which the importance of money as the measure of all things necessarily becomes diminished. One of the original reasons for forming Nation-States was as a curb human greed and aggression. It would be ironic, but hardly surprising that this artifice has had the opposite effect.

Without the national state and corporate players as the main economic actors, who would the players be in a knowledge commonwealth?

Meta View #2: Control to Humility

The illusion that we can control the world using knowledge instruments, such as policy and the scientific method is being questioned. This new knowledge of ignorance concerning the ecology of which humans are merely a part, as well as the Uncertainty Principle at its center is more reminiscent of the nature of ancient knowledge where humans were the humble subjects of nature rather than trying to be its masters.

This kind of ancient knowledge is illustrated by a recent quote from Hopi Indian Elders who have preserved this kind of ancient knowledge and applied it to our time. ‘There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift, that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly. Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water. And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally. Least of all, ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. We are the ones we have been waiting for.’

Where does wisdom come from? Does it come from possessing good knowledge? Or is it the source of good knowledge?

Meta View #3: Knowing to Imagining

It is suggested that imagination might be more valuable than knowledge.

When all is certain and understood, there is little need for imagination. When all is doubt and uncertainty, the imagination becomes a key survival tool. Without imagination it is impossible to consider and think about the unknown. Without imagination, there can be no living stories, only dead information. Innovation is the product of imagination and so is adaptation.

If imagination is at the root of all knowledge why do different forms of knowledge, such as arts and sciences, seem to pull in such different directions?

Meta View #4: Limited to Unlimited

The knowledge economy is seen as "fueled by creative energy" and a "well spring of limitless resources" because knowledge can grow exponentially as it is created and shared. With knowledge, people can learn to do what they think. Intangible knowledge assets are reported becoming more valuable than tangible assets.

The problem with concepts, such as exponential growth in a knowledge economy is that they try to put a quantitative value on qualitative change. Indeed part of the qualitative change may be stop trying to put a quantitative value on intangible assets, such as knowledge.

Is it meaningful to talk about an economy without modes of measurement?

Meta View #5: Goals to Aspirations

According to Debra Amidon, the goal is no less than the "re-definition" of the whole field of management in response to "kaleidoscopic change" which demands "new forms of measurement, learning strategies, leveraging of technology and new modes of interaction, both inside and external to the organization". Other Entovation Fellows feel that organisations should be mission oriented, self-directed -- and happy -- in order to be productive and to "replicate opportunities". Managing intellectual capital is seen as a way of giving more value to customers, than managing products and services. The goal of knowledge, which is conceived as multicultural and multidisciplinary, is to transform people and organizations "from within". More emphasis needs to be given to practice and information, compared with theory and technology. Both technical knowledge and information both for and about customers are necessary for "world development" and the "economically cultivated" consumer.

Until quite recently, an organization’s main challenges were to chart a course using strategic planning, for example, and then to stay on course despite being buffeted by the waves of change. The core assumption was that the co-ordinates of direction -- North / South, Profitable / Unprofitable, Right / Wrong, Progress / Regress -- remained constant like Latitude and Longitude on the map. Organisations could be blown off course, they could even change course, but at least they would know where they are. Now the challenge is to thrive in a chaotic, complex and unpredictable -- kaleidoscopic -- flow of opportunities and dangers in which an organization’s habitual coordinates no longer seem to apply.

If the goal is to look for new coordinates -- new values -- to guide our perceptions and decisions, in which direction should we look? How might we navigate?

Copyright 2000 by ENTOVATION International. All rights reserved.

DEBRA M. AMIDON is the President and Chief Strategist for ENTOVATION International (Wilmington, Massachusetts) - a global innovation research and consulting network with outposts throughout the world.

She can be contacted via email at debra@entovation.com.

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Last updated: 14 Dec 2000