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Monday, April 03, 2006
On the flight to SFO, read Larry Prusak’s article in the current issue of Harvard Business Review, where he brings out a refreshing perspective - He argues not to confuse information with knowledge. While in this flat world, well laid out connectivity brings within reach of several billions around the world almost same levels of access to information as available in the first world. This may not neccessarily mean trouble to the elite in the developed countries , so says Larry Prusak. As he explains, information is a one dimensional message – that can be packaged and instantaneously distributed across the world. He contrasts this with knowledge which he argues :
"results from the assimilation of and connecting of information through experience, most often through apprenticeship or mentoring. As a result, it becomes embedded in organizations in ways that, so far, have largely evaded codification. He makes an excellent point therein : While the cost of obtaining, storing and moving information has plummeted, the cost of doing so with knowledge hasn't dropped much at all( for some special skills this might have increased) & he explains that knowledge acquisition can’t be speeded up". (This in my opinion is disagreeable). He concludes, "Most of the people in the world remain out of the knowledge loop and off the information grid . Everyone getting access to email and Google will never in itself flatten the earth. Until our governments, NGOs, schools, corporations, and other institutions embrace the idea that knowledge - not information - is the key to prosperity, most of the world's people will remain a world apart."
My Take : Larry, the acknowledged KM expert has definitely brought out powerful arguments in support of acquiring and applying knowledge which provides enduring value to society, I do not agree with him that this edge would be forever unbridgeable .I agree with him that the rich institutional support that are available in the western world would continue to provide advantage for the established. Clearly the rest of the world was catching up a few decades back, but today the gap is narowing and in some cases almost nil. Clearly both of them need to collaborate and not necessarily compete in the coming days. But I very much doubt whether the advantage/edge that the western nations have today would long last. In discipline after discipline, we see that developing nations are making good headway forcing advanced nations to constantly rejig their business models. Look at the recent megamerger announced. The collective knowledge available with Bell Labs, combined with the financial prowess of Lucent was not enough to face the onslaught of the likes of Huawei. Like in the services industry, the behemoths were numbed into believing that they can milk customers eternally when in a decade we have seen the Indian headquartered companies shaking their belief systems. That’s why innovation and more so the business model innovation could become a crucial differentiator moving forward. A point that Sam Palmisano articulates very well. A recent IBM study on innovation finds,"Increasingly, the motivating force that brings people together for work is less the enterprise itself (a business organization) and more the collective "enterprise" (a joint endeavor or undertaking). If this trend accelerates, it will have profound implications for how companies think about everything from leadership to managing and motivating global talent. It will change the ways they approach innovation itself” . After all IBM’s business solution hub is coming up in India. In summary, I find it difficult to accept Larry’s view of knowledge edge of the US when reputed US corporations find that spreading global for knowledge work becoming the norm as the survival mantra.
Category :Knowledge, Emerging Trends, Changing World. |
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