Innovation is a key priority not just for startups, but also for global product and service companies. Many large firms have ‘intrapreneurship’ and innovation management (IM) initiatives with many of the traits of startups. And acquisition of product startups is a well-established strategy for giant firms to quickly procure new technology and expertise – but the success of such knowledge management (KM) moves requires deft culture change exercises.
These connections between KM, IM, startups and product companies were discussed at the monthly meetup of the Bangalore K-Community (http://kcommunity.ning.com), hosted by Honeywell. Participants at the forum came from a wide variety of sectors: aerospace engineering, IT hardware, logistics, textiles, software services, airport infrastructure and BPO. It was a delight for me to moderate the forum; here are my top takeaways from the discussion:
1. Knowledge management helps product companies keep up with the rapid pace of innovation in high-growth markets, develop a range of diverse products for emerging economies, and deal with the high attrition of the tech industry. KM helps re-use of components and engineering processes across product lines. KM is important not just for engineers and developers but also sales and business development functions. It helps engage with customers and business partners as well.
2. For product companies with a global workforce, social computing takes on enterprise significance. A socially enabled workforce can leverage modernised enterprise apps and participate in real time conversational streams and knowledge flows. Benefits of social computing include productivity gains, humanized connections in a global workforce, and better customer value. Social media brings meaningful dialogues and knowledge nuggets out of the ‘email cemetery.’
3. A maturity evolution path for the ‘social app fabric’ of a company can consist of the following phases: using off the shelf social tools, harnessing enterprise-quality social platforms, enterprise integration of social and legacy IT, and embedded social functionality in all enterprise communication. A range of social media startups has thus emerged to address the needs of enterprise communication.
4. Knowledge management has been effective in B2E and B2C channels; more effort will be needed to nurture and harness KM in B2B channels. KM has helped innovation management (IM) in incremental innovation, but not as much in radical innovation. KM has not helped inter-firm IM much in incremental innovation, but can enable inter-firm IM in radical innovation (eg. industry cooperation to adopt new standards).
5. Companies should evolve clear metrics to assess impacts of social KM tools, eg. percentage of people moving down the adoption diffusion curve (innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, laggards); percentage of top management with active social media profiles on the Intranet. A range of analytics startups has also emerged to help corporates grapple with issues of Big Data, information visualization, digital dashboards and real time analytics.
6. In any culture, innovative capacity lies at the intersection of psychological factors, sociological conditioning, and economic drive. Nations with less recognition and protection of IP will not perform as well in international patent-driven innovation. Emerging economies have done well in service innovation, the next prize is product innovation.
7. Startups will eventually need to formalize KM and IM to scale up effectively. This can be a challenge for some founders to relinquish ‘people-based’ approaches to knowledge communication and move to more formalized ‘process-driven’ knowledge exchange.
8. Acquisition of product startups can be an effective way for larger product firms to get new technology and expertise, but not all parent companies and startups can manage the culture change effectively.
J Subramanya NarayanaMurthy, Director Engineering Operation, Honeywell
“JS” is responsible for driving product development excellence in RDE projects of Aero, ACS & ITSS executed at HTS India. He leads primarily process quality, program management, Six Sigma and Reuse and Knowledge Management functions. He is working with the engineering team in ensuring that the highest level of CMMI maturity practices is followed and is well integrated with HOS and lean practices. JS has 17 years of experience in product development and engineering in Honeywell. He holds a bachelor degree in Electronics from Bangalore University. He has undergone a general management program at IIM-B.
Swaminathan C V, Solution Consultant, Unisys
Swaminathan CV is a SharePoint Solution Consultant with diverse experience in implementing KM solutions, designing portal solutions for business/function/strategic programs, social computing, usability designing and business collaterals. He has also worked on social computing tools, scalable solution designing and client services. His current focus is enabling user's access and harvesting information in the most effective way.
Pavan Soni, Innovation Evangelist and Research Scholar, IIM-Bangalore
Pavan Soni is the author of 15 papers and articles on innovation and co-authored two books on the subject. He was previously innovation evangelist at Wipro and consulted with firms on innovation and creativity agendas. He pioneered the concepts of Let Sparks Fly and Innovation Bazaar, and other creativity events in India. He is an active blogger, at www.pavansoni.net and www.theinflectionpoint.info.
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