An exploration of knowledge organizations and their management of information using both the Internet and digital means
This paper will explore the pros and cons of both, and make recommendations for implementing them into companies, both large and small, and finally show real-world examples of these technologies in use in some of the most prominent American companies today.
Today, we live in a very complex world. Technology is proliferating at an exponential pace, and we are constantly bombarded with new technologies and ways of accessing information. Some of us find it very hard to keep up with all these technologies in our own homes (some of us may not even know how to use the internet). But these problems are much more problematic for businesses.
While we might be able to still operate, and live our everyday lives despite our lack of technical knowledge, companies and organizations simply cannot. In this new "information age," the greatest asset any company can have (big and small) is knowledge. Knowledge is becoming the basis for operations, sales, management, and every other aspect of day-to-day business. Knowledge can serve to connect employees. It can enable companies to operate in different areas of the country, or even the world, all by keeping touch through networks.
Knowledge can be efficiently collected by companies and used for additional profits in new marketplaces, or even to enhance one's original project. Knowledge can be shared by companies to make their marketing strategies more efficient. Knowledge can help companies target individuals most prone to buying their particular good or service.
With the increasing importance of knowledge, one cannot disregard the technologies that maintain it. These are the catalysts by which companies will survive in the twenty-first century. These can enable small companies to "boom" practically overnight, and likewise, can "bust" large, establish companies, no matter how strong their product or reputation is.
We are entering a world of "instability," but this word is not used in a negative connotation, but rather a good one. Instability, resulting from the exponential proliferation of technologies, will serve to increase competitiveness, and eventually benefit the consumer. Already, the consumer is becoming more and more accustomed to the benefits of this new information age. The efficiency provided by new technologies allows companies to focus more time on custom fitting their products and services to the individual's needs.
When one company follows this path, it is a given that its competitors will also. In fact, they might try and "outdue" the other in adapting to the customers' needs and pocketbook. This, in turn, creates a buying environment conducive to the consumer.
Taking advantage of these new technologies and methods for obtaining and maintaining information, however, are not always easily done. The implementation can be expensive, not only monetarily, but also in terms of company policy. I will explore some of the obstacles that taking advantage of these new technologies poses, particularly those dealing with the workforce and employees.
Furthermore, the implementation of new technologies and strategies will require more risk on the part of companies. I will emphasize that no company or organization can afford to maintain the status quo in the new era of information. Knowledge can shift the advantage so quickly from company to company, that it is paramount that CEOs constantly explore new technologies and innovations in their companies. It is also important that they look beyond their present markets into potential new ones.
In order to understand knowledge organizations, we initially need to explore the idea of knowledge, and how it pertains to the corporate world. Knowledge is not a complex idea, but rather a broad one including all aspects of information.
We are constantly made aware that "knowledge" is the key to success, and this is a very accurate statement. The company, Knowledge-Based Solution's website contains the following quotation, "In the conduct of human affairs, there are certain truths which if applied at the appropriate time will result in making the best use of the limited time each of us spends in this life. We seek to build tools which assist to identify, save, organize and publish these truths."
In other words, knowledge guides our path to success or failure. We can have all the tools, the labor, and the motivation, but if we do not have knowledge, we are missing the most essential piece of the puzzle.
To begin, I am going to emphasize the importance of knowledge using the example of Northrop in the late 1980s. At the time, Northrop was suffering from low profits (Feigenbarum, McCorduck, Nii 1988, 16). Their skilled, well-educated workforce had eroded, and they were losing business to other domestic companies. They bounce back, however, through a number of measures based around "knowledge," and prove, to some extent, that knowledge is the most valuable asset a company can obtain.
Northrop, an Aircraft Company based in California, manufactured very sophisticated fighter jets (Feigenbarum, McCorduck, Nii 1988, 16). Their slowdown was primarily due to the production of their sheet metal, which took sex to eight hours of a planner's time, and required revisions when it was tested (Feigenbarum, McCorduck, Nii 1988, 16). The process was error prone and lengthy, and it drew too many recourses from the company's other projects.
Planners working for Northrop stumbled across a computer system developed North in Silicon Valley. The system (far before the Internet or digital revolution, but still relevant for this example) could be programmed to, "reason with this knowledge to arrive at solutions to problems of diagnosis, interpretation of data, design, and planning" (Feigenbarum, McCorduck, Nii 1988, 20). The computer system had the potential to prioritize the vast multitudes of data used by the planners at Northrop, and cut their labor expenditures, particularly those involving the sheet metal, significantly (Feigenbarum, McCorduck, Nii 1988, 20).
One of the main problems with the time and assembly required for constructing with the sheet metal was many different variables involved. The Northrop planners hired Silicon Valley computer computers to customize a program that could rationalize these variables, and subsequently prioritize them. The venture was a complete success, and planners were able to significantly reduce the time spent on the sheet metal (Feigenbarum, McCorduck, Nii 1988, 30).
This story, told in the book, The Rise of the Expert Company, concludes with the assertion that knowledge is the most important asset to a company. "(Northrop) early on recognized that some major costs in manufacturing are no longer on the shop or factory floor, the so-called touch costs. Much of the manufacturing cost is nontouch: the white-collar work, the decision making, problem solving, and data processing that support manufacturing" (Feigenbarum, McCorduck, Nii 1988, 30).
This story goes to prove that "knowledge" is essentially a catalyst for any organization's success. Even the large industrial companies like Northrop need to rely more on knowledge than their expensive production assets. Knowing that knowledge, or intellectual property is of paramount concern for most businesses, it is necessary to explore the means of obtaining knowledge, and maintaing it.
Knowledge is an incorporation of many things, including data, statistics, information, ect. In the business world, along with many other aspects of life, knowledge is power. As previously mentioned, it is the catalyst for success, above and behind anything else an organization can offer.
In this paper I will focus on knowledge and their relationship with two contemporary technological mediums: the world wide web and the digital marketplace. These two mediums are essential in the management and transportation of knowledge, and will continue to expand and advance as time progresses. In order for the organizations of today and tomorrow to compete in the real world, they need to take full advantage of these mediums, and seek to optimize their management of knowledge.
In their book, Knowledge Emergence, Ikujiro Nonake and Toshihiro Nishiguchi (2001) define three different types of characteristics of knowledge organizations: individual and societal knowledge, tacit and explicit knowledge, and a fundamental difference between understanding and agreement in organizations. They emphasize the importance of knowledge concerning business and organizations, and of this knowledge, they believe the most important is that of societal relationships. They assert that, "given these characteristics, more attention should be paid to the issue of social relationships as the crucial foundation for organizational knowledge development" (Nonake and Nishiguchi 2001, 30).
Their argument involves an in depth exploration of why societal knowledge is paramount when considering all the different aspects that pertain knowledge. For the purposes of this paper, however, I will stick to arguing in favor of the general idea of "knowledge," as opposed to a particular subgroup of it.
In his book, A Design for Business Intelligence, Curtis Symonds (1971) asserts that, "The concept of management information is not a recent outgrowth of the computer age. Nor is the more formalized concept of a management information system by any means confined to the capabilities of electronic data processing. Information and information systems for the management of business enterprise are as old…