In developing a new strategic plan for looking towards the new century, the ABC Foundation (a pseudonym) stated that its greatest asset is the vast amount of information and knowledge it has to share. As such, knowledge management and knowledge sharing are major commitments for the coming years for the Foundation. One of the reasons for engaging in knowledge management is to increase innovation, thereby contributing towards becoming an innovating, learning organization. Innovative efforts include the search for and the discovery, experimentation, and development of new technologies, new products and/or services, new production processes, and new organizational structures. Organizations that are able to stimulate and improve the knowledge of their human capital are much more prepared to face today's rapid changes and innovate in the domain where they decide to invest and to compete. The success of an innovative product is notoriously connected to research activities and changing orientation. These two elements depend on the development of knowledge levels and the innovative efforts of knowledge workers (Carneiro, 2000).
Innovation processes are becoming more interactive—more dependent on knowledge that is widely distributed—therefore knowledge management is increasingly central. Swan et al. (1999) believe that the community-based model for knowledge management stimulates innovation better than the IT-led model for knowledge management. They believe that the community networking model influences innovation as knowledge for innovation is socially constructed and based on experience. Knowledge management initiatives that encourage active networking are the key to interactive innovation processes.
According to Perez-Bustamante (1999), innovation is a learning process that takes place between scientific research and the market, through which the organization uses scientific and engineering knowledge bases to develop products with the characteristics demanded by the market. Then, the organization has to adapt the new product or process to its internal characteristics and product portfolio. This adaptation requires the development of organizational changes that are fundamentally based on learning processes. These organizational learning processes, which comprise part of the knowledge management life cycle, will affect the agility of an organization in adapting to new techniques and environmental factors and stimulating innovative efforts (Perez-Bustamante, 1999).
Some people, like Debra Amidon with Entovation International (www.entovation.com/innovation/knowinno.htm), have suggested coupling knowledge management with innovation to create "knowledge innovation." Knowledge innovation is the creation, evolution, exchange, and application of new ideas into marketable goods and services for the success of an enterprise, the vitality of a nation's economy, or the advancement of society. Amidon feels that knowledge innovation is one further step on the management performance trajectory than knowledge management—integrating knowledge management with innovation management. Effective knowledge management is a necessary prerequisite, but companies are developing the role of knowledge in their innovation processes (Connor and Gutknecht, 1998). Amidon stresses the need for a community of "knowledge" practice whereby an informal network of people is sharing ideas on the strategic focus of knowledge and developing knowledge in pursuit of common ideas and goals. In looking at R&D generations, we have moved into the fifth generation of "knowledge as the asset," versus the earlier generations of the product as the asset (first), project as the asset (second), enterprise as the asset (third), and customer as the asset (fourth). There are organizations like SCOAP, a not-for-profit organization in Canada, that annually provide awards to organizations for the best knowledge management innovation initiative.
Dougherty (1992) has looked at a practice-centered model of organizational renewal through product innovation. Through her work, she has observed how product innovators gather tacit visceral knowledge and transform it into articulated knowledge. Articulating visceral knowledge relies heavily on the art of direct interpersonal relations with potential users. Glynn (1996) views organizational intelligence as related to innovation. Organizational intelligence is a social outcome and is related to individual intelligence by mechanisms of aggregation. Glynn's work suggests that intrinsic motivation is necessary for creativity and innovation. This type of motivation can be gained by developing communities of practice so that a sharing process is facilitated. This finding is verified by McClure-Wasko and Faraj (2000) as they indicated that intrinsic motivation, versus extrinsic motivation, is why people participate and help others in electronic communities of practice. Kerssens, de Weerd, and Fisscher (1996) also suggest that knowledge management in research and development is essential for stimulating innovation.
Kanter's (1996) extensive fieldwork confirmed that organizations can foster innovation. Key elements to stimulate innovation include close contact with users who are sources of needs, crossfertilization of ideas, high connectivity among workers and functional areas, broadly scoped jobs, coalition building, open communication, crosscutting teams, continuity of personnel, and flexibility to adapt to changing conditions (Agresti, 2000; Alavi and Leidner, 2001). The literature seems to confirm that knowledge management and innovation go hand-in-hand. Being knowledge-based is now one of the most important innovative thrusts for any organization.
This case study will describe the knowledge management activities in ABC Foundation as it strives to become a knowledge leader and an innovating, learning organization. Knowledge management implementation critical success factors will be proposed, and a description of the various knowledge management initiatives at the Foundation will be explained. Afterwards, a discussion on areas that the Foundation needs to strongly consider will be explained in order for the Foundation to reach its strategic knowledge sharing goal.