Print Page

Hot Topics in Technology and Innovation

From Knowledge Management to Innovation

January 06, 2014
Satyamoorthy Kabilan
National Security and Strategic Foresight

What comes to mind when you’re asked about the reasons for having a knowledge management function? Is it about sharing across the organization? Is about dealing with the vast quantities of information that we generate and use today? Is it about capturing information from transitory knowledge workers? When I am asked about my interest in having a knowledge management function, I almost always use a one-word answer: Innovation.

Over the last decade, we have seen an increase in the academic literature around the links between knowledge management and innovation. Many of these point to the need for effective knowledge management as a means for driving and sustaining innovation. The Australian government has a useful piece on how knowledge and innovation interact. It states that “For organisations to innovate—and thus sustain competitive advantage—requires the ability to quickly adapt to the business environment and save time-to-market. This adaptation requires learning, problem-solving, and the production and integration of relevant new knowledge in response to business problems.”

Not only are people writing about this link between knowledge management and innovation, we are starting to see university courses being offered on this specific topic. For example, Cranfield University in the U.K. runs a MSc course that aims to “… create the next generation of technical and business leaders who can drive strategic innovation and collaboration by effective management of organisational knowledge ….”

During a meeting of the Conference Board’s Knowledge and Strategy Exchange Network (KSEN), there was a discussion on this topic and an inside look into Samsung and how it utilized knowledge management to drive innovation. Like a number of other companies in Asia, Samsung had a lot of skills and knowledge in manufacturing and production. However, for it to continue to compete in the long term, it needed to be able to develop and offer its own products rather than remain as a subcontractor for other organizations. Knowledge management was seen as a key element in helping Samsung transition into a more innovation-driven organization.

Samsung took the approach that there was a need to identify key areas where it needed to manage knowledge rather than imposing a system across the entire organization. These areas, where Samsung was most innovative, would be managed and measured accordingly. This allowed the organization to manage and share innovation in areas where it was strongest and to build and manage new knowledge in areas where it was weaker. This played an integral role in shifting Samsung’s strategy from a “fast follower” model to a more innovation-based system.

Eventually, Samsung developed the capability for designing new products as its knowledge improved and could be shared and combined with the depth of knowledge it already had within the company. The intersection and sharing of knowledge was a key factor. The company’s successes in today’s electronics market, as a major brand name with a range of innovative products, certainly owes something to this approach.

There are many others that have acquired knowledge and then managed and shared it effectively to develop new capabilities, ultimately using it to drive innovation and new products. Hyundai and its move from a parts manufacturer to a major automobile producer is another example of this. It can be argued that Apple Inc. does this as well through the purchase of other companies and managing newly acquired knowledge in its drive to develop new and innovative offerings.

Using knowledge management to help drive and sustain innovation is not a new idea. However, innovation does not always seem to be a major factor in knowledge management discussions. We need to remember that managing knowledge is not just about capture and dissemination—it is also very much about enabling the development of new ideas and driving innovation.

Follow us: @Innovation_CBoC


Monthly Newsletter

If you enjoyed this article, get regular updates by signing up to our monthly newsletter.

Social Media

Image of Twitter logo @Innovation_CBoC
Image of Facebook logo @ Technology and Innovation
Image of Google Plus logo @ Technology and Innovation

Related Executive Networks

The Council on Information and Knowledge Management (CIKM) brings together senior leaders from public and private sector organizations who are responsible for knowledge management, knowledge strategy, information and collaboration management, crowd sourcing of ideas, and related functions. Together these leaders share their experiences and expertise in a peer-to-peer environment as they strive to leverage and maximize the value of their organization's most important assets—knowledge, information, and people.

The Council of Chief Information Officers (CCIO) provides the opportunity to discover how leading-edge private and public sector CIOs are addressing emerging challenges and building strategic advantage through information technology. The Council addresses executive leadership challenges such as strategy, change management, and innovation, through a CIO lens. By design, the Council allows for deep exploration of emerging topics and the formation of meaningful peer-CIO relationships, all in a closed door, private setting.

The Council for Information Technology Executives (CITE) helps strengthen capacity to effectively address the challenges of today’s rapidly changing business environment and stay competitive. CITE brings together senior IT executives to investigate and discuss leading-edge issues related to the field of information technology. This Council acts as the common voice of both private and public sector organizations to develop best practices, nurture the growth of Canadian IT specialists, and partner with influential bodies to increase awareness of the IT profession. The Council is made up of CIOs from small and medium sized organizations, and senior IT executives from large organizations who are direct reports to a CIO.

The Council for Innovation and Commercialization (CIC) provides innovation executives in Canadian firms with the contacts, concepts, tools and learning experience to improve innovation performance. Through networking with peers and facilitated discussion, members share experiences, best practices, and methodologies thus strengthening their innovation capacity. The Council is a broad-based membership spanning innovation infrastructure in Canada, including SMEs, large businesses, non-profit organizations, academia, and governments. This ensures that members have the opportunity to explore different facets of innovation in Canada while at the same time achieving focus on the needs of their own organization.