CII’s upcoming annual conference highlights the importance of knowledge in startups and enterprises, along with trends in organisational learning and innovation.
Kicking off on March 7-8 in Bengaluru, the annual CII Knowledge Summit will feature a range of corporate leaders, chief knowledge officers, innovation heads, and startup founders addressing the theme, ‘Reimagining the Knowledge Enterprise’.
Pioneering Indian companies have been excelling in the field of knowledge management (KM) for over two decades. The KM Global Network is currently chaired by India; it includes KM professionals and academics from around the world.
Organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the two-day international event will feature keynotes, panels, and workshops on how organisations are sustaining their unique edge in the knowledge race, and how countries need to zoom in on their knowledge strengths.
The speaker lineup includes companies like Mindtree, McKinsey, YourStory, EY, Urban Ladder, TAFE, Manipal Education, UBS, Microsoft, Azim Premji Foundation, Unisys, Trianz, TCS, Fractal Analytics, Wipro, Cisco, Alibaba Cloud, Zone Startups, NetApp, Brigade Group, Somar Network, TechStars, NIIT, 91Springboard, and HackerEarth.
How can storytelling help organisations learn? How can social media and AI enhance knowledge flows and stocks? How are companies leveraging past successes while taking risks on emerging innovation? How are corporates and startups engaging in successful co-creation? These are some of the key themes for this annual CII summit, for which YourStory is the media partner.
The knowledge movement is gathering steam in countries around the world, and the CII conference features an international delegation of knowledge experts. In this first preview article on the CII Knowledge Summit 2019, we share perspectives from Singapore, India, Japan, and South Africa.
Knowledge capital is a key success factor in an era of change. “Make no mistake, we are in the thick of the Knowledge Economy. Don't be fooled by the hype around ‘digital.’ Digital is only the medium. It is knowledge and its identification that creates the most value. It is leveraging knowledge that creates competitive advantage and sustained profitable growth,” said Rudolph D’Souza, Chief Knowledge Officer of AFCONS Infrastructure and Chairman of the KM Global Network, in a chat with YourStory.
He points to Airbnb’s evolution into an experience company as an example in this regard. “Experience is a ‘knowledge product’ that is offering higher returns to owners and better value to travelers. From a commoditised market, Airbnb is moving to a segmented strategy - based on knowledge,” Rudolph explains.
Successful innovation can also be powered by knowledge management (KM). “In a thriving KM practice, the sensitivity to knowledge nuances is granular. This means that any outlier event gets noticed. Outlier events are usually innovations disguised as problems that get addressed,” he says.
Rudolph traces the evolution of KM over the past few decades through phases like technology adoption, communities, and social networks. Trends to watch now are the release of the ISO KM Standard 30401 in November 2018, the growing contribution of KM to business excellence, and the rise of AI.
“The question today is not ‘Should we have a bot’; it is ‘When should we have a bot.’ AI and ML will transform the practices of knowledge gathering and lessons learned,” Rudolph predicts.
He also offers tips for companies to successfully identify and harness core knowledge. “Look at where the value is being generated: is it the customer experience, the product, or the delivery? Then look at what knowledge is required to keep ahead, who needs it, who has it, and how can you let knowledge flow faster, effectively and efficiently. That will enhance value and ensure competitive advantage and innovation,” Rudolph advises.
Unlike the US and Europe where government agencies embraced KM, the Indian government seems “opaque” to KM with hardly any notable sustained initiatives, he observes. There are only a few educational institutes in Indian that encourage students to study KM.
“India is a multi-track, multi-speed nation. The same is reflected in KM. So while there are sectors where KM practices are matured - like IT, consulting, finance - there are other sectors where KM is just gaining traction, such as infrastructure, legal, and multilateral agencies. So it is still an exciting space,” Rudolph says.
“CII is the only body that conducts an annual KM conference in India, and has a KM Committee as well as an awards programme,” Rudolph adds. KM is now seeing a revival in India thanks to the efforts of CII and local community meetups in cities like Bengaluru and Mumbai.
Singapore has an active Smart Nation initiative, and KM is an important part of strategy in business and government organisations, according to Rajesh Dhillon, President, Knowledge Management Society (KMS), Singapore.
For example, the annual conference organised by KMS last year addressed how digitalisation, technology, and transformation have made KM even more relevant today. “We are moving from data to information and knowledge, and onward to machine learning and augmented intelligence,” Rajesh observes.
Universities in Singapore offer KM courses at the Master’s level, and there are shorter KM courses and masterclasses as well for the professional community. “There is no doubt that KM efforts do contribute to organisational productivity, efficiency, and cost savings for businesses and government agencies,” Rajesh adds. KMS also organises an international KM competition for the Knowledge-Ready Organisation Awards.
“KM is at the forefront of innovation and transformation. It may not be a fancy and trendy name as compared to other descriptions used today by many organisations, but the core principles of KM continue to be the backbone of any organisation that is on the transformational digital journey,” Rajesh explains.
He identifies a number of trends in the knowledge movement today: digitalisation, augmented intelligence, social networks, and cybersecurity. He also offers three concise tips for organisations with respect to better knowledge sharing and learning: “embrace, engage, and excite.”
“Embrace the knowledge era. The digital era is way past the introduction phase; we have to get in tune with what is being developed to increase the learning and knowledge curve,” Rajesh explains.
“Engage employees. We have to engage the millennials; they are the future of our organisations. If they aren’t already, then in a few years’ time they will be running the organisation. Being digitally native, they bring future methodologies and technology, as well as today’s answers to weaving KM into everything we do,” he adds.
Knowledge work should not be seen as paperwork or drudgery; it is key to capture, contextualise, and share knowledge. “Organisations must continue to excite people to make learning, reflecting, and sharing fun. KM must excite the organisation’s leaders as a process of productivity and profits,” Rajesh says. It should also excite practitioners as an effective way to improve their work process and increase their value to the organisation.
KM is an imperative for both the public and private sector in South Africa, explains Refiloe Mabaso, Deputy Chairperson of Knowledge Management South Africa (KMSA). She is also Senior Manager for Information and Knowledge Management at Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS), South Africa.
“KM in the public sector, including the state-owned companies, is been taken seriously as a capability and competence that is expected to speed up service delivery, a top priority for the South African public sector,” Refiloe says. Members of KMSA have been sharing a number of successful stories and practices through their online platform.
They source, develop, and present best international and localised practices in the profession using breakfast sessions, webinars, conferences, workshops, white papers, and case studies. Other activities include standardisation and benchmarking of knowledge activities.
“KMSA also seeks to position KM as a strategic resource in policy development and decision making for successful implementation of the National Development Plan. A knowledge-economy strategy is fundamentally a cross-cutting one, in which key policies are implemented within a coherent and integrative framework,” Refiloe explains. This includes a code of conduct and formal registration as a professional body with the South African Qualifications Authority.
“When the right people are appointed to lead KM, defined process are clear, and the right technology as an enabler is deployed, there is great productivity that is realised,” she adds. KM will continue to be seen as imperative in organisations and impacting productivity. The correct measures should be identified to ensure that KM contributes to the success of the
organisation in both productivity and performance, she advises.
KM is key not just for best practices but also for adapting to new tech waves. Refiloe identifies AI, learning management tools, and digital transformation as key trends to harness. “Innovation comes with allowing knowledge workers opportunities to share knowledge without creating boundaries,” Refiloe advises.
Knowledge capture and sharing of lessons helps innovate new products, improve organisational processes, discover new content, and generate new ideas. Unfortunately, though many knowledge practitioners are good at capturing knowledge, they are not as good in transferring knowledge or measuring its impact.
“Communicate and embrace change in the organisation. Align KM to business strategy and objectives,” Refiloe urges.
Japanese companies and academics have been among the early pioneers and thought leaders in the field of KM. “KM has already penetrated into lots of Japanese listed companies. Therefore, no special government initiative of KM in Japan is needed,” explains Hideo Yamazaki, Vice-President of the Knowledge Management Society of Japan (KMSJ).
There are as many as 30 KM conferences each year in Japan, some organised by the Japan Economic Journal. Many companies are using KM principles in skills transfer between senior and junior staff. As for workplace design, several businesses let people choose and change their desks at will. Over 15,000 companies use internal social media and messaging systems for knowledge sharing, Hideo adds.
“It is a popular notion in Japan that organisational productivity slows down without knowledge sharing,” he explains. “The most critical theme in the field of KM in Japan is how to cope with AI, how to utilise it along with or in addition to human intelligence,” Hideo observes.
Other trends he identifies are the rise of hackathons and idea-thons to promote knowledge sharing and innovation. “Communication is human nature, while knowledge sharing is also human nature. Therefore, companies that can succeed in cultivating human nature shall prevail in the business world,” Hideo says.