Mar 09

Learning and knowledge organizations

Together with many others, these factors are putting a great deal of pressure on companies while obliging them to change their behaviours and to adjust to the increasingly discerning demand coming from the oulet markets. Demand that, thanks to the ever growing transparency achieved by the access to information the new technologies make available, asks for more and more affordable products and growingly refined services.

All of these drivers highlight the need to enhance the human factor and the system of skills and expertise residing with businesses. In addition, in order to perform their role, organizations are less and less close-ended systems with a value chain where the shift is witnessed from products/services which, stocked up by the suppliers after being appropriately processed, are sold to the end customers. More and more the new organizations are complex structures brought into a system of pro-active co-operation with the partners upstream the chain and of co-operation with the end-customers who, in turn, participate in the entire process (from development to consumption). Accordingly, the new rationale too attaches importance to the human factor and to the need to have knowledge be part of the system as a whole.

Two more variables come into play that can affect the competitiveness of modern businesses, that is to say the rapidity whereby change can be managed and the capability to adapt to the new competitive context. Both of these factors largely affect the characteristics of the corporate’s human asset and, in particular, the capability to evolve the knowledge, expertise and individual as well as collective behaviours of organizations.

Notably time has become a primary competitive factor and the managerial skills linked to the management of time constitute an immaterial resource that becomes incorporated in the manufacturing processes in form of production of acquired, transmissible knowledge.

In addition the development of information and communication technologies entails the option and the need to approach the relations amongst the different links of the chain of competence and business processes in a different manner. Distances having been removed and the possibility to rely on new channels in the transaction of goods and services have contributed to outlining a new panorama rich in opportunities and threats where the success and attainment of the competitive edge depends on the capability to handle efficiently the acquired knowledge.

Accordingly this highlights the fact that the future competitiveness of new businesses is grounded on the ability to enhance the “knowledge” component by identifying the asset value currently in place, though often unrecognised, as well as by handling its development.

Organizations are often unaware of the underlying asset value which consists of several components: individual and collective knowledge, patents, the value of the relationship with customers, suppliers and partners, the value of the relationship with the collaborators. On the other hand, by today’s standards static knowledge cannot apply when it comes to competing so that its dynamics is increasingly to be addressed. Most certainly although the new technologies give businesses an infrastructural support in managing the interdependence of knowledge, its development and enhancement, extra effort has to be put. It is necessary to change attitudes and behaviours, to pool knowledge and experiences, while improving listening and communication skills belonging with businesses both inside and outside.

In the light of the considerations above, organizations are moving more and more in the direction of “learning and knowledge organizations” where the corporate’s chief workflows permit to pool knowledge and experience in order to learn from one’s mistakes, to enhance best practice, to access knowledge be it at hand or remote, to learn from customers and suppliers.

The distinctive traits of businesses are more and more tied to the capability not only to manage individual expertise but collective knowledge and its dynamics, thereby overcoming the often sectorial and defensive attitudes and behaviours of individuals and groups. For sure pooling knowledge is one of the variables to be reckoned with in order to improve the asset of businesses but today the very key to success resides precisely with the development dynamics of such asset. The most successful companies are proven to have developed the capability to move away from internal and external barriers, either by partnering with or incorporating totally unknown, new knowlegde (from biotechnology to nano technology)  or by rethinking completely their business models.