Friday, September 7, 2007

How Knowledge is changing Organizations

As organizations are realizing the importance of Knowledge, nd have realized the significance of the basically tacit nature of knowledge, they are waking up to the importance of human interactions (not just humans, but the knowledge that is necessarily generated by people carrying certain tacit knowledge interacting with each other, and it not only about trying to convert tacit into explicit). This has led to a shift in the focus from data processing, and the importance of data, to interactions management. To be fair to them, the Japanese always knew that everything cannot be eplained using data, as have we in India. But, the leading business thinkers, trained in the more American analytical way, seem to have ignored this dimension for a very long time.

The way I see it, this fundamental recognition of the importance of people in the organization is changing the way the nature of the organization is evolving. Lots of business thinkers agree that the structure of the organization is changing (this is quite obvious), but while lots of folks have written about the Open-Source movement, and B-Schools are doing Case Studies on his model, not many are looking at the larger implications. Maybe that is because the changes here are more subtle.

The nature of employment is changing. The days of retiring from the organization which you joined right from college are no longer there. There is, though, a larger change in the nature of organizational affiliations. Many consulting and tech firms are today moving towards a shared-delivery model. This gives them them greater flexibility in deploying resources, while at the same time have a single resource handle multiple client projects simultaneously. In other words, the primary work variable has become the skill of the individual rather than the client. If we take this argument to the next logical level, even for indiviuals, the skill parameter is more critical than the employer. Which is why one would expect to see more prliferation of freelancers, contractors, or small boutique shops specializing in a particular skill, which can then be sold to multiple "clients".

Look at this closely ... This is changing the nature of the organization. No longer are the boundaries of the organization as solidly and well-defined as they used to be. This trend, of course, is coming up against corporate inertia. The existing corporate structure trying to stave it off. More at places, and less at others, depending more on the corporate climate. But fact it is. A clear sign ... The tension between Collaboration and Intellectual Property.


KK said...


Liked what you have written; have a question for you. How do you define Intellectual Property (IP) and collaboration. Where does IP stop and collaboration begin.

I think sometime back, I did bring this issue up in one of Luis' posts that KM would ultimately go head-on with IP. Because KM is all about sharing, collaborating and growing and IP is all about protection. So where do we draw the line and who decides what the line is.

Would appreciate if you would share some thoughts on that.

Atul said...

Hi KK,

That friction is something we are seeing already. However, having said that, have to agree that IP concerns are very real. Only issue is, how is IP defined. IP, and its brother, Customer Confidentiality. In my experience, I have seen annual reports of public listed companies as being customer confidential, because project teams get into the habit of posting everything in the customer confidential folder (its safer to err in that direction, rather than in the other direction).

Looking at IP, the way I see it, is that there cannot be a universal set of parameters for defining what is IP and what is not. At least not as of now. Though, we could look at few indicators to guide us to determine whether something falls under the category of IP (and these are only some of my thoughts, because I am not a specialist on IP!) ...

For instance, does the asset sunch in with the business strategy of the organization? Or, does it represent a new revenue model, or a revenue stream, howsoever small? Or, does this represent cost saving opportunities, howsoever small? Or, does it represent possibilities of operational excellence? Last but not the least ... Can it be found on google?