A Local Culture Threat/Opportunity
evolution is inevitable. The world is experiencing unprecedented change in
applications of knowledge, technology and know-how in every society. The
demands and opportunities of our increasingly interdependent global
economy have implications for private and public decision-making by
enterprises and communities, whether local, national, regional or global.
Cultures are changing, ours included. 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.
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?
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). 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.
We now live in
an age of ‘kaleidoscopic change.’ It is not the speed of change
of one variable, nor the speed of change of multiple variables. There is a
compounding effect of the speed of change of multiple variables causing
management landscape dramatically different from the one we know today.
Complicate the effect with the notions of virtual enterprises and
collaborative technology, and we have before us a real challenge to manage
forward for sustainability, harmony and wealth-creation.
Certainly 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. 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. Globalization of
knowledge is a positive force.
given a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the implications of the
emerging economy through the documentation of Adam Hochschild in his book,
King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed Terror and Heroism. One reads his
account with sober reflection and even outright horror at the way that
human beings were used as pawns in an international game of economic
chess. On the other hand, we can also query – hindsight always being
useful – whether that period of time was justified as pioneers struggled
to take advantage of an expanded horizon. I used to think that war was the
ultimate form of destructive competition. These imperialistic atrocities
in the name of colonization – caused more damage.
frontier requires even the most competent decision and policy makers to
maintain a steady course to create the human and humane practices that
will provide a foundation for the kind of world we want our children’s
children to inherit. Have we learned something from our past that
gives us wisdom to manage our future better than the past? Is there
something of value in the diversity of people, cultures or nations…or
are they just empty words?
It may be wise
to visit the differences between globalization and imperialism.
Globalization implies an uncoerced willingness to adopt new knowledge.
Examples abound of imperialism – not the least of which is
Hochschild’s account of the Belgian Congo. Globalization, on the other
hand, is more difficult to identify and the implications more difficult to
discern. The flow of knowledge is not easily documented. We enter into the
realm of measuring and managing what experts now call intangible, hidden
value – of a person, company, or nation. With the Internet and the
advancements in communications technology, we are bound to see an increase
in the movement of ideas, language and even the distribution of goods and
Today, much of
globalization is driven by the logic that the production of any product
will ultimately go the site of least cost/best quality. Although the
mobile telephone was actually invented in Bell Labs in the 1940s, they
were not manufactured until the 1980’s. Now their availability and use
is global and changing cultures. Nokia – based in Finland – is clearly
recognized as one of the world’s leading producers. Call Centers are
based in Ireland, Canada, and India; US Medical transcription is in South
Africa. Software development is found in India, China, and Russia. Hard
goods in our stores manufactured in China and Nepal. Regardless, the
influx of new work brings with it new thinking and new challenges. For
example MIT was established to support the New England Textile Industry -
not to develop Genetic technology or Physics and electronic theories and
technologies. And the innovation from the university spawned new
economic opportunities and challenges, which in turn created cultural
changes. For instance, Biotechnology is taught in universities and trade
schools - courses that didn’t exist 5 years ago.
globalization is driven by the extraction and payment for raw material
like Middle East and Russian oil, or South Africa's diamonds or
Australia's opals. But the willing recipient of the new technology,
knowledge or market need drives the cultural changes that are inevitable
with globalization. In other words, progress is more a function of
free will; while imperialism is the result of the resistance of the
recipient to have changes forced upon them. Because knowledge resides in
the minds of people, the knowledge economy is something we will do – not
something that will be done to us. Knowledge is the one asset we have that
makes us unique. Others can replicate our products, replicate our services
and even reverse- engineer our business strategies. No one can replicate
the knowledge base – how it is developed and harnessed through effective
and sustainable innovation.
in its purest sense is not a threat to local cultures; imperialism is.
Globalization is the lubricant to change in local culture - change
willingly and eagerly adopted by the citizenry. Cultures are not and have
never have been static to positive change. Therefore by definition,
the taker and the giver share the benefits of globalization. In the
case for our discussion today about the impact of foreign investment, that
would mean that both the global organizations and the local societies are
the mutual beneficiaries.
Of course, we
have not seen evidence of this – at least not what is reported in the
daily journals or even the scholarly press. We hear documentation of the
increased Digital – and even Social – Divide exacerbating the chasm
between the haves and have-nots. We wonder about the 1/5 of the world
living in ‘economic supremacy’ and the other 4/5 in ‘dependency’.
We observe the activities of the Johannesburg World Summit and wonder how
– even with the best intentions – can we really develop the master
action plan to eradicate world poverty, minimize world hunger, preserve
and protect our environment for generations to come.
And so what
have we learned in the process?
We knew that the current conditions – founded on models of financial capital – even linked with technology in the form of the dot.com – were built upon unstable (or perhaps incomplete) economic assumptions. The technology/productivity paradox must be resolved – and once and for all. The behavior implications of the new Knowledge Value Proposition are fundamental to that resolution. And we must plan for the world we want to innovate, not the one that exists today.
Tomorrow will not look like today; yet the future is not dissimilar from the unchartered waters sailed by the explorers during the Middle Ages. Today, there are better navigation devices, but there is little understanding about what might lie over the horizon. Ours is the challenge to innovate our future in ways that leverage the best of every human being, every enterprise and every nation.
Knowledge has emerged as the strategic focus for business and has been growing in importance over the last decade. Of course, Peter F. Drucker described the knowledge worker as long ago as 1963. Ever since the early descriptions, interest in knowledge as a lever of strategy and the number of organizations with formal knowledge programs has grown inexorably.
Understanding of these complex facets – and the interdependencies thereof - provide a solid foundation for what was originally envisioned in 1982. The prosperity of individuals, enterprises and nations relies upon knowledge as the resource and innovation as the process.
Nations was created to maintain political stability around the world. The
World Bank and the IMF were created after World War II to ensure the
movement of financial capital. Today we need a similar infrastructure for
the worldwide flow of intellectual capital. If knowledge is the modern
asset – the most precious resource - of the 21st Century, we have a
premise behind the need to create The Innovation SuperHighway for the
World Trade of Ideas.
It was Dr. Tom Malone, formerly with Formerly at MIT and now a Distinguished Scholar Emeritus with North Carolina State University, who introduced many of us to the real opportunity at hand with his comments on Global Learn Day:
Using the foundation for sustainability outlined in The Earth Charter, Dr. Malone and others who I consider the community of knowledge leaders is developing a common language, principles for an innovation culture and a shared vision of where we are headed. These values are echoed in the far corners of the world.
information superhighway – or so it was taglined by the press – is
known to be an initiative about computers, technology and communication
via the Internet. In reality, however, the platform for the original
Global Information Infrastructure (GII) was actually about meaningful
information (i.e., knowledge) and the networks – both technical and
social – that can move knowledge from wherever it is created to the
point of need or the point of opportunity. The infrastructure, then, is
really about people and more about innovation or putting knowledge to work
(i.e., the blending of face-to-face and electronic communications).
The rules have changed – or
as Tony Blair suggested after the events of 9/11:"The kaleidoscope
has been shaken. The pieces are in flux; soon they will settle again.
Before they do, let us reorder the world around us."
As have many Americans – and citizens of
the world for that matter, these events have given us great pause for
reflection. Now, it is time to construct a platform for action that
provides a foundation for protection of our future. Indeed, this crisis
affords us an opportunity – and a global one at that – to architect a
commonality of purpose that transcends any particular culture or spiritual
orientation. This is a chance to value the diversity of perspectives; and
come to a common language and shared vision of what might be possible.
Together, we could crystallize a compelling message for leaders of this
new world that is ‘innovating’ before our eyes.
Principle 1: The best defense is an
When people are wounded – either physically or emotionally – the tendency is to withdraw. This is essential to deal with immediate injuries and to develop some strategies to prevent further injury. However, depending upon the magnitude of the infliction, the results can lead to panic and paralysis. These conditions lead to increased fear, additional downsizing and protectionist actions that exacerbate the problem. Bad economic conditions produce bad economy...produce low morale...produce no risk-taking...produces bad economic conditions...etc. It is a death spiral without a forward agenda to motivate, inspire action. All the innovation (i.e., responsible risk-taking) gets squeezed out of the system...at precisely the same time it is needed.
Principle 2: The battle is an
ECONOMIC one, not necessarily military.
Principle 2: The battle is an
ECONOMIC one, not necessarily military.
attacks on the World Trade Center and subsequent apparent biological
warfare, we must not forget that the military response is only part of the
solution. The heart of was the invasion is on the financial capital of the
world and the supporting infrastructure. The damage to human life is
evident; the real damage to the quality of life is incalculable: the
numbers unemployed, the stagnation of investment, the damage to small,
medium and large-scale enterprises across every industry, and the loss of
world trade – all have implications far beyond the boundaries of the
Principle 3: KNOWLEDGE (not
technology) is the engine of economic prosperity.
We now know that knowledge – in the form of ‘intellectual capital’ – is the most precious resource to be managed; and unlike land, labor and financial capital, it is an asset that multiplies. It is the one resource – in coordination with environmental conditions – that leads to the prosperity of a company or a country. The Knowledge Economy – as opposed to a digital or information economy – affords us a human and humane agenda within which the potential of every person is valued. It is the agenda that had leveled the playing field and enabled all nations – developing and industrialized – to envision modern management policies and practices. Knowledge – in the form of imagination coupled with action – is what enables us to envision a world that doesn’t yet exist.
Principle 4: INNOVATION is the
process by which knowledge is created and harnessed.
If knowledge – embedded in the learning capacities of people - is the resource to be managed, then innovation is the process whereby visions are realized. According to Peter F. Drucker, it is the one competence for the future. Therefore, innovation strategy – developing the capability to create, share and apply knowledge - is a process that should not be left to serendipity. Innovation operates on all three economic levels: the profitability or prosperity of an enterprise (micro-economic), the vitality of a nation’s economy (meso-economic) and the advancement of society (macro-economic). It is the one process around which can be created a common language and a shared vision.
5: Any national strategy must be international and COLLABORATIVE in
Although there are definite implementation
boundaries, no strategy – even one for National Defense – can be
developed as an ‘island’ in this global economy. We have too much to
learn from one another as a way of dealing with the inevitable
complexities and uncertainties. The days of developing competitive
advantage may finally be dead. Instead, nations will discover ways to
leverage the uniqueness of their heritage and culture with strategies to
develop new, better standards of excellence. With 9/11, we have an
opportunity to shape the vision: "We are building a new economic
world order based upon knowledge, innovation, stakeholder success and
international collaboration; and this is the platform for world peace,
In some post
9/11 scenario planning, faculty at Wharton School of Business have
identified four alternatives based upon internal/external events and the
degree of response from industry and government: (1) Paralysis/Survival,
(2) Slow Growth, (3) Thriving on Chaos and (4) the most optimal -
and peoples of the world recognize common goals and focus on economic
development and peace as the route to permanent stability. The key
features of this scenario would be that the recession proves short-lived
and the business cycle would return to normal; the global coalition
against terrorism would evolve into a coalition for peace and commerce,
and the threat of terrorism would fade. Investments in new
technologies for energy management would reduce the role of oil in Middle
Eastern politics. Consumers would feel confident about the future,
increase their spending, and lay the foundations of a sustained economic
recovery. Trade barriers would be lowered and the developing
economies would grow in tandem with the developed ones.”
These are the goals most
consistent with the vision above; and may provide the most promise for
taking advantage of the events of 9/11 – converting tragedy to triumph.
We can look at
the Chinese symbol for crisis that has two characters – one for danger
or threat (and these are real); and one for opportunity. Of course, we
must learn from the errors of the past such as we discover in
Hochschild’s book and learn from the aboriginal cultures of the world
– in Australia, the US, Canada and beyond. We have far more to gain,
however, by keeping our vision on the future and the potential
opportunities afforded a knowledge economy. As Henry Thoreau suggested,
“If you have built castles in the air; that’s where they belong. Now,
build the foundations under them!”
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. Culture will change and be
changed by the inclusion and diffusion of knowledge in our everyday
for sustainability – economics, education, environment and more - are
interdependent. Similarly, we are members of a nation treasured for
diversity. True value is in the collective – what we have to offer one
another. All innovation begins with the individuals 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.’
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. Let
us continue to learn together.
 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.
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