Entovation International - Delivering Knowledge Innovation Strategies for the Millennium

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Knowledge Millennium Generation

Our future is in good hands.

I find this in every corner of the world; but here, students from the University of Cologne, Germany, have accomplished something extraordinary. Originating in 1984, the (OFW) - now a 34 (all honorary) student team - works to gain practical experience in addition to the theory the university provides. These bi-annual conventions bridge the gap between generations and nations and provide a common prospect of the opportunities and risks of the future.

In addition to the Congress content and format innovation, OFW reaches all over the world for student essays on the topic of the convention - "Re-thinking Knowledge". In an intensive competition complete with review committee, 1,111 papers from students in 83 countries - from Albania to Zimbabwe - were received. 400 of the best were selected and those individuals came from over 70 countries to participate in the Dialogue.

In short it was an exceptional pooling of expertise and as closest I have seen to the harnessing of our worldwide collective intelligence. The substance of the dialogue was so robust, I cannot do it justice here.

There were some themes that emerge from many of the speakers:

1. It's not the technology, it's the social implications thereof - the human dimension.
2. We can create and incentivize the environment to produce more knowledge and sharing.
3. The focus on knowledge goes well beyond the enterprise in terms of economic policies and practices; it is a matter of establishing modern managerial standards.
4. It is a function of balance and harmony; not either-or, win-lose scenarios.
5. There may be some answers in collaboration.
6. Developing nations are using the knowledge economy as one way to level the playing field.
7. This is only the beginning of a major societal transformation, the implications of which we are just beginning to comprehend.

Thanks to a grant from Joachim Doering, Vice President, Information and Communications Networks (ICM), Siemens AG, the original papers submitted have been analyzed by Jan Wyllie, Trend Monitor International. Invitations have been sent to academic personnel in various global universities and the final report will soon be available. Here are some of the preliminary findings. For companies interested in helping support the continued research of thee knowledge trends, please contact Debra M. Amidon.

From sharing knowledge and practice to sharing meaning and goals:
    Despite the huge investment in time and technology in the cause of promoting knowledge sharing, the results have been disappointing, as people continue to hoard what suits them and make multiple copies of message which is in their interest to broadcast (thereby creating information overload amongst their colleagues). IT actually makes both hoarding and broadcasting easier. High performance teams, who are aligned and complementary, need to share meaning and goals. Only when meaning and goals are shared, does effective knowledge sharing become possible.

From arrogant certainty to humble doubt:

As the environment in which people live becomes increasingly destabilized and seemingly complex, the expectation that knowledge provides solutions to problems is diminishing. As knowledge becomes more relative and less certain, humility and flexibility are becoming increasingly seen as virtues.
From value based on money to value based on wisdom:
This trend is still very much in the new thinking domain. The question is what do people really exchange during a mutually valuable transaction?

Wisdom implies always taking into consideration the wider context. So really wise exchange between the buyer and seller of a car, for example, should consider the consequences for the environment of manufacturing the car, running it and disposing of it. Clearly, there will be occasions when making no exchange will be wiser than making one. Growth would have to be valued by quality of learning, rather than the quantity of transactions.

From progress based on novelty to sustainability based on experience:
The artificial culture of consumerism is based on creating and exploiting demand for the "new and improved" which always promises to be better than what people are actually experiencing. The process works simply by breeding dissatisfaction. If people were encouraged to be satisfied with the basics of life, rather than to want remade, new versions of things all the time, they would make a much smaller impact on the ever-surrounding environment. Sustainability would be a direct consequence of this trend.
From private knowledge sold by experts to public knowledge shared to increase social responsibility:
Of course, the last thing that the large majority of experts want is to make their specialist knowledge generally available. The successful presentation and dissemination of expert knowledge is liable to sharply curtail the amount of work needed. The reason, though, that this knowledge will become available in a form which non-specialists can use, is that fortunes are to be made by experts who succeed in disseminating their expert knowledge far and wide, through the Internet and knowledge publishing techniques. Ironically, the more intellectual forms of knowledge will be most at risk. Knowledge requiring hands on experience will be relatively safe.
From organisation based on structures of roles and tasks to organisation based on cultures of relationships:
Culture underpins meaning. It engages both emotional and abstract intelligence; it addresses motivation; it involves caring and trust.

Bureaucratic structures are not without culture, which grows like weeds around paving stones. They also tend to distort cultural relationships by imposing arbitrary structural hierarchies on people, often making what would otherwise be excellent teams, dysfunctional. Cultures of relationships are, by their nature, self-selecting and self-managed.

Abstract management techniques which are designed to manage roles, tasks and processes are ill-suited to these kinds of culture-based organizations, which are growing up, both inside big corporations and among the exploding networks of micro-businesses.

From individual points of view to group perspectives:
High performance teams create knowledge out of their relationships. All members of the team must widen their perspectives to include an understanding of each other's viewpoints. In this way, understandings can become both wider and richer. Through iterations of relationships and communications, a meta-perspective can be constructed which can provide teams with higher-level group reflection capabilities, making possible a new dimension in consciousness. People have worked together as high performance teams since hunter, gatherer times. These days, the only time that people really get to work together in this way is during crises ... and with many team sports, voluntary activities and some project activity within corporations.
From digital technology as a knowledge delivery mechanism to digital technology as a knowledge creation tool:
The growing supply of data mining software and other "knowledge tools" is the latest attempt by Artificial Intelligence enthusiasts to create "artificial knowledge" that would be of strategic value to organizations.

A great deal of money is being spent on creating a market for this new form of knowledge. It is too early to say what its real value is likely to be.

From environmentally destructive knowledge exploitation to environmentally sustaining knowledge contribution:

Knowledge has been traditionally used by business as the way to extract the most physical value from the environment at the cheapest cost.

Knowledge could as easily be used to discover ways to extract as little non renewable value from the world as possible, while at the same time contributing as much renewable value as much as possible. Scientific and technical knowledge would, of course, have a great deal to contribute to such a quest. However, the most valuable contribution would come from the values and knowledge by which people actually live their lives.

Note: The number of arrows, > to >>>, indicates the strength of the trend.
1. Sharing knowledge and practice > Sharing meaning and goals
2. Private knowledge sold by experts >> Public Knowledge shared to increase social responsibility
3. Organizations based on structures of roles and tasks >>> Organisations based on cultures of relationships
4. Individual points of view >>> Group perspectives
5. From arrogant certainty > Humble doubt
6. Value based on money >> Value based on wisdom
7. Progress based on novelty > Sustainability based on experience
8. Environmentally distructive knowledge exploitation >> Environmentally sustaining knowledge contribution
9. Digital technology as a knowledge delivery mechanism >> Digital technology as a knowledge creation tool


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Last updated: 19 Aug 1999