After 11 hours of flight and a 3 others waiting at JFK Airport, I arrived at the Caribbean Hilton in San Juan for the 24th Annual Strategic Management Society Conference. SMS is one of the most prestigious conferences on strategic issues in management science. I am here to present a paper in the track K "Knowledge & Innovation".
What I would remember from this event ?
1) I had the chance to talk one hour with Gabriel Szulanski (INSEAD Singapore) about my PhD. He is a great person and I really appreciate that he took a little time with me. He was challenging my project and advised me to compare the experience of the knowledge managers in order to discover how they value the transfer of practices. Gabriel was the star of the conference: he received the prize for the best SMS article for the one published in 1996 in the Strategic Management Journal (Winter 1996, Vol.17, p.27) called Exploring Internal Stickiness: impediments to the transfer of best practice within the firm.
2) I also had a little discussion with JC Spender about the future of knowledge management. It was funny to discover that JC is working on call centres management and how to institutionalize a KM strategy. Max Boisot (University of Catalunya) is also working in this subject.
3) Finally I met very interesting persons around the world in my area: Philippe Byosiere (Doshisha University - who is working with Nonaka since many years), Markus Venzin (Bocconi University in Milan/ESSEC - working on KM performance in Heidelberg Cement), Robert Jensen (Wharton) and Kaz Asakawa (MIT/Keio University).
4) Our paper received very good feedbacks from the audience (15-20 people in the room). The paper was written with Tracy Stanley, Knowledge Manager in Amadeus, and with Nicolas Rolland, Professor of Knowledge Management in Ceram Sophia Antipolis.
Workshops on Knowledge Management and Strategy
By: Max Boisot
Napier Collins on Scenario Planning
Scenario planning is organizing the ‘Eureka moment’: unfreezing/re-freezing ideas. Scenarios are ‘patterns’ or ‘representations’ of potential future that managers can talk about. It allows a diversity of thoughts on a common problem. Then, knowledge generated there becomes a ‘practice’ integrated into the process of scenario planning. We need managerial process to organize scenario planning; knowledge is in the guts and not in the head.
Ellen Enkel, Sigfried Gudergan and Thomas Durand on Knowledge & Innovation Issues
What are the trends in published academic research and journals (academic + business)?
Review of SMJ, ASQ, AMR, AMJ & LRP from 1993 too2003:
- 121 articles targeting knowledge and innovation
- 47 different topics
- using a panel of experts to cluster topics
Survey realized on 281 respondents (including me!): 214 academics, 36 practitioners and 31 consultants.
Knowledge implementation issues & strategic performance represents 13% of published papers. But consultants, practitioners and academics agree on the fact that ‘sharing and integrating knowledge in and across organizations and networks’.
Measuring knowledge is an issue for practitioners. Spender considers that as an academic we know how knowledge is measured: when it is published!!! We should look at ourselves. According to Max Boisot, topics on the left are luxury topics in the area of management.
JC Spender (Open University): Making use of knowledge management.
How to get value from Knowledge Management? Different kinds of knowledge assets can be found in the literature. K is non-rival asset. Economic rules don’t work. According to JC, there are three views on Knowledge:
- K as a data: big part of the industry IT oriented. Collecting and delivering data. We know what data means.
- K as a meaning: philosophical problematic.
- K as a practice: Practice is explained through meanings. The practice shapes who we are. Practice and identity is working together. Example of Call Centre. There is a shift from: Knowledge of the product to practice of the knowledge. Practice: “Sire you do this and that to fix the machine”. They codified the conversations in the knowledge base that we can retrieve thanks to a search engine.
Organizational Learning and the Materialization of Knowledge into Performance
Reasons for the study: obstacles to the conversion of Knowledge and Learning into performance improvements still to be outlined.
Methodology: one case study; analytical generalization (Yin, 2003); longitidunal; a priori theory; 60 interviews and archive data over ten year period; semi-structured interviews (gradually structured).
The Studsvik case: great experience in nuclear power but a company who was about to be closed in 1990 (declining profitability, government disappointment…). The company changed thanks to learning initiatives.
Robert Simons (Harvard Business School): Designing Organizations for performance.
Measurement & Control items. Professor of Accountability. Span of control of resources. Span of accountability. Are they different? Span of control is narrowed than span of accountability.
Ø Span of control=what resources do I control? (ex: few resources)
Ø Span of accountability=what performance measures am I accountable for?
Ø Span of influence=what interactions do I have with others? Who do I need to influence to achieve my goals?
Ø Span of support=who I need to help? From whom I can get help? How much support can Ii expect?
Gabriel Szulanski & Yves Doz (INSEAD): Framing Discontinuities
Life must be understood backwards; but….it must be lived forward (Kierkegaard): how would you capture it as it happens and to after the fact. What’s going to happen? How to anticipate? Motivation of the paper: the importance of early phases is increasingly recognized.
Companies have reacted differently towards the Internet. If it has been seen as a threat the response is very strong. Threat generates a more vigorous organizational response (Dutton & Jackson). If a person does not make the effort of framing discontinuities, there is a danger to not tackle or reduce ambiguity. Example of framing activity is data reduction.
Robert Jensen & Gabriel Szulanski (University of Illinois-Urbana Champain): Knowledge Transfer Methods
Value of Knowledge Assets: Teece, Pisano & Shuen (1997). The replication of routines is sticky (Von Hippel, 1994). Review of the literature does not specify the methods.
Empirically driven categorization: 271 returned questionnaires. Did you use a particular method? 10 questions
Results: 4 groups:
- Implementation Methods: good for initiation and integration
- Sharing Methods: good for decreasing stickiness implementation and ramp-up.
- Persuasion Methods: negative impact on initiation and integration
- Training Methods: biggest impact on implementation methods
Völker Mahnke, Markus Venzin & Torben Pedersen: The impact of knowledge management on MNC Subsidiary Performance: the role of absorptive capacity in Heidelberg.
How does KM impact subsidiary performance? What is the impact of knowledge on profits?
Managerials starting point from Heidelberg: Corporate university, knowledge groups, group benchmarking, learning systems, and rewards are tools influencing knowledge flows but they have benefits and costs. Empirical studies on the impact of knowledge management on the performance of MNC subsidiaries remain elusive to date.
Positive relationship between the portal (Learning System) and Absorptive Capacity. Strong relationship between absorptive capacity and inflow of knowledge.
Findings: influence of KM tools and business performance via absorptive capacity not directly on performance. Unpacking the performance implications of KM applications. CKO of Nestle said it takes 8 years to change the culture. Future Extension: improved conceptualization of costs and benefits of knowledge sharing.
Final personal words: it was a great experience that pushes me to focus my research on a strategic field (by the way, Puerto Rico is a nice place to go...)