The Innovation Superhighway: Harnessing Intellectual Capital for Collaborative Advantage
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Harnessing Intellectual Capital for Collaborative Advantage
By Debra M. Amidon
Release date: November 2002
ISBN: 0750675926 - Butterworth-Heinemann 2002
"Debra M. Amidon may be the next Peter Drucker with her
- D R A F
T T E X T -
Chapter 1: A Global Imperative for Sustainability
The Knowledge Why
saw the earth without any borders
The world is experiencing
unprecedented change in applications of knowledge in every dimension of
development, growth, revitalization and organization. The demands and
opportunities of an interdependent global economy have implications for
private and public decision making by enterprises and communities, whether
local, national, regional or global. Most nations have launched major
initiatives to harness their inherent capability within a transnational
context. All has been done in the name of international competitiveness.
Economies have been transformed, communities revitalized, emerging
territories supported and industrialized nations repositioned. We have much
to learn from one another.
The foundation for a new
economic world order has been laid – one based upon knowledge, innovation
and international collaboration. This is a new landscape where managerial
rules have significantly changed – but how, when and to what end?
In 1982, I had been working on
the team to bring the Microelectronics Computer and Technology Corporation (MCC)
to Boston. After all, we had the most successful Route 128 High Technology
Belt and highest concentration of academic institutions than anywhere else
in the world. We were ‘The Massachusetts Miracle’ (Lampe, 1988). We
expected that the San Francisco Bay area was our only formidable competitor
with the then rapidly emerging Silicon Valley.
The principals of Control Data Corporation and Digital Equipment Corporation had been actively involved in charting a new course for US R&D – establishing a collaborative foundation for pre-competitive research. They had studied the principles of the then highly successful Japanese ‘Keiretsu’ – horizontally and vertically integrated groupings of firms. They studied the plans for Tsukuba City – the first large-scale planned science city – that was designed to be a ‘knowledge-generation’ site (Gibson & Rogers, 1994). And they studied the plans for the Technopolis strategy to link the castle towns of the nation with superhighway infrastructures (Tatsuno, 1986).
The decision stunned the economic development community when the announcement was made that this national treasure would be based in Austin, Texas. This was a pivotal decision orchestrated with a combined academia, government and industrial bid that established new rules for the soon-to-be innovation landscape of the modern enterprise – although few realized its importance at the time. Collaboration – with all the difficulties if implementation – was to become the modern management mode-operandi.
I remember my first trip to
Austin in 1984 to review the initial research and technology transfer plans
of this new research consortium. I was impressed by meeting with Admiral
Bobby R. Inman, USN, (Ret.), the Corporation’s first CEO, who was the former Director
of the National Security Agency and Deputy Director of the Central
Intelligence Agency. I marveled at the plans for a new MCC facility – a
researcher’s dream and an ideal location to create, exchange new knowledge
in a spirit of collaboration that transcended the walls of significantly
competitive firms. I must admit, however, as I looked at the
relatively barren landscape (sorry, but remember I was from Massachusetts),
I wondered how the talent needed to succeed would be recruited to Texas.
I returned only 18 short months later and it seems that a city had been built overnight! Already there were highways and skyways to rival a mature industrial complex…and it was only the beginning. It did not take long for us to realize, in fact, that the ‘infrastructure’ that had been so eloquently crafted by local leaders such as Dr. George Kozmetsky, Founder and Director of the IC2 Institute, was not of bricks and mortar. It was, instead, a vibrant ‘social capital’ infrastructure founded on the intelligence and interactions of people sharing with common purpose and shared vision.
They called it ‘collaborative individualism’ – these managerial architects of MCC. It was similar to ‘entrepreneurial teamwork’ - the core value of Digital Equipment Corporation, the 3rd official company to join. It was based upon a ‘technopolis wheel’ emphasizing the public/private collaboration across the academic, business and government sectors (Smilor, Gibson and Kozmetsky, 1988). A new form of technology transfer was being innovated – one that relied upon the flow of knowledge (not technology per se) to and from MCC. Success would be based upon the quality and intensity of those interactions.
There was considerable
energy in the deliberations – and excitement, if you will, that a new era
was coming…and indeed, it was. The restrictive country anti-trust laws
were rewritten; arch-competitors were collaborating and people were
discussing possibilities – across functions, across businesses and even
The process of innovation was being redefined forever and we were all
eagerly participating in that evolution.
From NII to GII
About the same time,
representatives in the scientific community were already witnessing the
benefits of electronic communication. What originally began as ARPA-net in
1972 as the network for DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects
Agency) - used by a few university military laboratories - was expanded as a
general science network and became NSF-net in 1986. Once success was proven,
the growth was explosive; and it eventually evolved into the platform for
what was called the National Information Infrastructure (NII) – and later
described in editorial shorthand as ‘The Information SuperHighway.’
The NII perspective – as
originally intended - was based upon the assumptions that now seem an
understatement: the pace of network communications would accelerate over the
next decade; the boundaries of the traditional research scientific community
are fading; and networks would link science and society in ways yet
The platform as stated in the original National Information Infrastructure (1992) was to provide:
In short, the NII was an
agenda for national competitiveness. But even when it was broadened and
renamed the Global Information Infrastructure (GII) during a subsequent G7
discussion, it was never intended to be the ‘information’ infrastructure
at all. The ‘facilities and services’ were actually the network – and
the ‘network’ was both technical and human. ‘Useful information’
could be considered ‘knowledge’ that resides in the minds of people
whatever their cultural or professional origins. And ‘creation and
diffusion’ is actually the innovation process – however defined, such as
theory to practice, idea to market, cradle to grave, creation to
Therefore, the NII/GII was - in reality - the design of an innovation (not information) infrastructure – thus, The Innovation SuperHighway. Now with the geometric acceptance of Internet and the globalization of its application, the innovation intent can be realized - to move ideas from the point of origin to the point of opportunity (e.g., global business) or the point of need (e.g., to eradicate world poverty).
Today, if you do a search on the Worldwide Web for ‘The Information Superhighway,’ you will get everything from “Smart cars running on smart highways” (Weisenfelder, 1996) to a recent Winner of the American Society for Information Science and Technology's 2001 Best Book Award – From Gutenberg to the Global Information Infrastructure: Access to Information in a Networked World (2000) by Professor Christine L. Borgman, Presidential Chair in Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. She explores with well-researched material, the implications of electronic commerce, electronic publishing, distance-independent education, distributed entertainment, and cooperative work that is depends upon the ability to discover and locate information, whether about products, services, people, places, facts, or ideas of interest.
Borgman suggests, “None of these applications are new. What is new is the process by which they are conducted….Much is known about the information-related behavior of individuals and institutions, yet relatively little of that knowledge is being applied to the design of digital libraries, national and global information infrastructures, or information policy.” I would add that when the GII is viewed as an innovation infrastructure (i.e., looking carefully at the ‘how’ and to what end’), we might be able to use the network – admittedly human and technical – to more prosperous advantage.
Progressive managers and other
enterprise leaders are already seeing the benefits of and application of
these learning and networking technologies to the Knowledge Economy. Such an
Innovation SuperHighway can bring together leading thinkers and
practitioners from around the world, from different industry sectors and
types of organizations, from governments and public policy agencies, and
from professional organizations. Only with this level of cross-fertilization
will it be possible to build a truly global infrastructure from which all
sectors, functions and regions of the world can benefit.
The dawn of the new millennium
has been met with great enthusiasm and an equivalent commitment to change
– or as we prefer to call it – innovation (i.e., the capacity to
preserve the best of the old and realign the rest to take advantage of
future opportunity). Individuals and organizations from every function,
sector and corner of the globe are envisioning a new economic world order
– one based upon intellectual, not financial capital. Of course, knowledge
has always been an essential element in the advancement of civilisation, but
today’s emerging economy proposes that knowledge be managed explicitly.
there are numerous facets to understand with this complex evolution; but
there are three primary underlying themes are fundamental to the new
infrastructure needed to create prosperity in this new economy:
Today, we know that the knowledge agenda is worldwide, pervades every function and every industry, and has implications for industrialized and developing nations alike. Indeed, it has evolved well beyond the borders of a nation; it has become an agenda of international collaboration. Although originally thought to refer to white-collar, high technology workers, there is no such thing as a non-knowledge worker. And - originally to have been the focus of the services sector, there such a thing as a non-knowledge-intensive industry. The knowledge of all individuals is important. Knowledge is what makes companies unique – even within the same industry. We have more to gain by building upon the competencies of one another as individuals and nations.
Figure 1-1 Evolution of Thought
By now the shift in orientation from ‘data’ to ‘information’ to ‘knowledge’ – or reasonable facsimiles - seem commonplace; but we still hear about national initiatives for the Information Society and the needs for ICT (i.e., Information, Computers and Technology). There are still many who are caught without a fundamental understanding of the difference. Our simple explanation is that data is a base representation of fact, information is data with context and knowledge is information with meaning…fully actionable.
The innovation of which we speak - and must manage - is not a function of the flow of technology, or even the flow of materials into viable products and services. Rather, it is the learning process – the pace and effectiveness with which knowledge is exchanged – and how swiftly ideas (old and new) are applied. Customers have become so sophisticated and the realities of hypercompetition so prevalent, companies can no longer focus on products from a technology-push perspective. In fact, most customers are not even satisfied with a solution-based product offering. Instead, their knowledge needs to be considered part and parcel of an organization’s ability to innovate.
We now know that win/lose scenarios are sub-optimal at best. Even cooperative ventures (i.e., sharing the pie) may create win/win interaction; but do not capitalize of the real value of human interactions and the potential knowledge-sharing therein. On the other hand, collaboration can provide a synergistic win/win in which opponents/partners develop a shared understanding of what’s possible and make decisions on what might be created (and actualized) in consort with one another, rather than as separate entities.
We are just beginning to discover how to value knowledge in our organizations and the fact that knowledge has no value until it is put to use. Leaders in technological innovation and knowledge management are beginning to converge in their concepts and in their practices. University research initiatives are beginning to proliferate. Nations are launching initiatives for 21st Century positioning, and societal organizations, such as The World Bank, UN, EU and OECD, have placed knowledge and learning as centre stage for future sustainable economic development. It is only the beginning.
Potential of knowledge societies
There has been a compounding
effect from the rapid advances and acceptance of virtual reality and the
phenomenon of virtual networks. Advances in one area appear to affect
the other and visa versa. In other words, communications technology -
visible within the past decade as research experiments and “skunk works”
- is now embodied in a plethora of products and services ranging from the
most complex business simulations to video games. This symbiosis makes
possible the virtual organizational structures, as defined by Steven L.
Goldman, Roger N. Nagel and Kenneth Preiss (1995) as “an opportunistic
alliance of core competencies distributed among a number of distinct
operating entities within a single large company or group of companies.”
Such innovation enables organizations to operate with more fluid, flexible
management practices on a global scale.
In 1987, we held the first nation’s Roundtable for Managing the Knowledge Assets into the 21st Century (Amidon and Dimancescu, 1987) where we concluded:
And so, the journey began with
an exploration of the process of innovation: knowledge creation, knowledge
translation and knowledge commercialization. Given the exploding receptivity
of Internet capability, the concepts diffused quickly through all sectors of
the economy, into Europe where there were already roots
laid by Karl-Eric Sveiby in (1987) and Hiroyuki Itami (1987) and Ikujiru
Nonaka (1991) in Japan.
These progressive concepts that initially focused on the enterprise level (e.g., Know-How Company. Knowledge Creating Company, et al) were elevated swiftly with adoption in the realm of economic development by various countries, such as France and Poland. Having been exposed to a US Study Mission on technological commercialization, the Prime Minister brought his entire cabinet to New York City – hosted by Dr. Michael Crow, Vice Provost of Columbia University - to understand the implications of the use of the technology for the sustainability of his country.
Soon, we saw evidence of the attention of industrialized nations through the initiatives by the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) with lead articles in the OECD Observer by Jean-Claude Paye (1996) on policies for a knowledge-based economy and Riel Miller (1996) on Human Capital Accounting. The World Bank followed suit with major initiatives including the publication of the World Development Report with the title Knowledge for Development (1999) that set to convert the institution into the World Knowledge Bank for developing nations. They followed up with major Global Partnership Conferences – the GKI in Toronto, Canada, and GKII in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia that drew 1200 participants from 90 nations. By the time I visited Beijing in 1998, there were already several study commissions on the implications of the knowledge society for China.
By now, the notion of Intellectual Capital (IC) Reporting, originating at Skandia AFS, began to focus on the ‘Power of Innovation’ (1995) and was adapted to the level of the nation’s economy in Sweden. At the same time, several countries – namely Denmark, The Netherlands and Israel - were experimenting with the schema adapted for their countries. The European Union hosted a meeting in Utrecht bringing together Ministries of Education, Commerce and leading knowledge professionals to explore the ‘European Knowledge Union.’ Even nations like Peru were holding National Conferences on IC as early as 1999 and the World’s Fair in Hannover, Germany, created a sizable ’Knowledge Park.’
More recently, the Brookings Institute has released their study on Intangibles (Lev, 2000), FASB has issued Guidelines, The World Bank has issued new economic indicators and the United Nations - together with McMaster University - has defined a National Intellectual Capital Index (Bontis, 2002). The US State Department has held briefings on converting nations like Russia to a Knowledge Economy, there are proposals for the Western Hemisphere Knowledge Partnership (WHKP) and the Prime Minister of Singapore has declared his intention for his country to be “The Innovation Nation.”
We need more demonstration projects to create prototypes for new ways of thinking about how research scientists and bench engineers – across disciplinary, industry and national boundaries – can collaborate on problems of mutual interest. We need more examples of the progress of developing nations and aboriginal communities in establishing new mechanisms to preserve and leverage their own cultural heritage. We need more success stories of the accelerated creation, movement and application of new ideas into products and services can ensure the profitable growth of an enterprise – large scale organizations as well as small start-up entrepreneurial firms – and ultimately benefit society. We need more incentives for individuals to value their knowledge and the knowledge of others and work collaboration for the common good.
Such international multi-year
projects should not focus on the flow of information per se, but upon the
interdependent creation and utilization of three types of knowledge: core
knowledge (data, information and expertise); new knowledge (ideas and
inventions) and applied knowledge (products, services and know-how).
Evaluation of such systems will provide insight into the interdependence of
the economic, behavioral and technological factors referenced earlier. It
will provide some understanding of the managerial principles inherent in
virtual networked learning – the challenge of The Innovation SuperHighway.
was Dr. Tom Malone, formerly with Formerly at MIT and now a Distinguished
Scholar with North Carolina State University, who introduced many of us to
the real opportunity at hand with his comments on Global Learn Day:
path to a prosperous, sustainable, and equitable society is long, winding,
and difficult, but a start can now be made with a knowledge-based and
human-centered strategy. This strategy empowers individuals to renew rather
than degrade the physical and biological environment, aid to enrich rather
than impoverish the social and cultural environment. Entry into this
knowledge society will require new patterns of collaboration among the
scholarly disciplines. New modes of partnership must also be established
among all levels of government, academia, business and industry, and local
Using the foundation for
sustainability outlined for the Western Hemisphere Knowledge Partnership (WHKP)
[see Chapter 14] that was premiered in Boston (USA) in July, 2001,
participants imagined a vision (and relevant strategies) for nations and
regions of the world:
Education -- life-long learning is a sine qua non for a knowledge-based
economy. Distance education is a promising tool with which to pursue
Health and resilience of natural ecosystems - requires development of
indicators for the pressures on, extent of, and output by agricultural,
coastal, forest, freshwater, and grassland ecosystems. As civilization
expands, hazards from natural disasters increase. Extensive use of
collaboratories is envisioned in this and subsequent agenda items
Eco-efficiency in the production and consumption of goods and services -
environment-ally benign to alleviate the impact of further economic growth
on world ecosystems.
Energy -- to power economic growth -- conservation and exploration of
environmentally friendly sources of energy (the accumulation of greenhouse
gases in the atmosphere is emerging as a regional as well as a global
National income accounts - extension to include environmental impacts and
make realistic the consequences of contemporary patterns of production and
Intellectual property rights (the knowledge-based economy is transforming
legal and measurement standards).
Delivery of health care -- now entering an era of profound change in which
integration with the sciences and sharing of new knowledge and its
applications to health care are increasingly important.
Community networks -- to foster interactive participation by individuals at
all levels -- local, regional, and global -- indigenous communities to major
is not these factors individually, but the inter-relationship of how these
elements combine to establish a foundation conducive to attracting foreign
investment, stimulating entrepreneurial management to take advantage of the
opportunities technological advancement provides.
Singapore Prime Minister Goh
Chok Tong (recently reelected to office) in a keynote address provided the
vision of an Innovative Society:
many people, the word "innovate" conjures up images of science
labs, high-tech computers, and people with a string of degrees working in a
faraway place called Silicon Valley. But that is incorrect. Innovation is
nothing more than coming up with good ideas and implementing them to realize
their value. It is about value creation…. Throughout the history of
mankind and civilizations, countries and corporations, which were able to
anticipate, respond and adapt to changes quickly, have triumphed over
others. Those that failed to act and react quickly fell by the wayside.”
He suggests that to realize
their vision of an innovative society, Singapore needs a concerted,
deliberate effort to transform the mindsets and processes that choke and
kill innovation. A national focus on innovation is required; and he has put
resources behind the words to actualize the vision. The Singapore
Productivity and Standards Board (PSB), Economic Development Board (EDB) and
other agencies are working close together to cultivate the innovation
culture among students, the workforce, businessmen, the Civil Service and
leaders in society.
Ultimately, it is people who will make the difference in transforming Singapore into an innovative society, admits the Prime Minister. The Government provides the infrastructure and creates the environment for more people to take business risks; but it is each individual that must act. With a call for action, he inspires: “Each of you can and must innovate. Together, we can transform Singapore and ride the crest of change in the world.
What better foundation for The
Innovation SuperHighway than such a vision of borders minimized? Indeed, the
intent of the 2001 conference was a search for world synergy - not
inappropriate given the events of 9/11. Indeed, by the leadership taken at
this recent International Productivity Conference (IPC), Singapore – with
the help of the Asian Productivity Organization (APO) – will lead not only
the nation, but they could set the standards for creating the innovation
region of the world!
In 1945, Vannevar Bush submitted a seminal Report to the National Science Foundation in Washington D.C. – “Science – The Endless Frontier.” Now, we have an opportunity – not with one Chief of State – but the academic, government and industrial leaders of the world to see innovation in a new light. No longer need we focus only on information, computers, and technology. In fact, we need no longer only focus on financial capital, for it is the intangible value hidden in the interactions among people, nations and societies that creates the true value; and innovation is how that value is realized.
In 15 short years, an agenda that was in the minds and hearts of a few has become the dominant theme of deliberations for the new Millennium. Knowledge – often defined in terms of Intellectual Capital – is clearly the source of new economic wealth. Innovation is the process by which that wealth is converted into action – products, services or initiatives. Although activities can be based at the level of the group, function, enterprise, or nation, ultimately real value is in what flows between the borders – creating collaborative advantage.
The variables for sustainability – economics, education, environment and more - are interdependent. Similarly, we represent nations that are treasured for their diversity, but true value is discovered in the collective – what we have to offer one another. All innovation begins with the individual within whom lie intuition, intellect and imagination. Innovation is a call to action, for only when knowledge is acted upon is there a benefit to society. The dramatic effects of the acceleration of technology – its receptivity and promise – are providing an infrastructure within which our knowledge can be created, shared and applied…and ‘real-time.’
The Global Information
Infrastructure - The Information SuperHighway – captured the
imagination of professionals in every corner of the globe. Now, we can step
back and see that the network – both technical and human – was never
intended to be about information per se. It was the design in practice of
The Innovation SuperHighway that has spread in versatility and with global
reach unimagined only a decade ago. We’ve all become actors in the
exploration of the new innovation frontier.
 There was an international intelligence function designed to scout information beyond national boundaries.
 Assumptions in a workshop, “Management of a National Telecommunications Highway” that was presented to NASK – the Polish Equivalent of the NII by Willem Scholten and Debra Amidon, October 1994.
 Visit the detailed ENTOVATION Timeline based upon Innovation Strategy for the Knowledge Economy: The Ken Awakening for the evolution of the knowledge movement: http://www.entovation.com/timeline/timeline.htm.
 This list is intended as a representative sample of national and societal initiatives.
 For a detailed description of the 24-hour dialogue described in 7 vignettes of global interactions, visit: http://www.entovation.com/whatsnew/learn-day-entovation.htm.
© 2002 ENTOVATION
International Ltd. All rights reserved.