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About this book

This book is intended to spark a discourse on, and contribute to finding a clear consensus in, the debate between conceptualizing a knowledge strategy and planning a knowledge strategy. It explores the complex relationship between the notions of knowledge and strategy in the business context, one that is of practical importance to companies. After reviewing the extant literature, the book shows how the concept of knowledge strategies can be seen as a new perspective for exploring business strategies. It proposes a new approach that clarifies how planned and emergent knowledge strategies allow companies to make projections into the uncertain and unpredictable future that dominates today’s economy.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

1. The Elusive Definition of Knowledge

Knowledge is an abstract concept without any reference to the tangible world. It is a very powerful concept, yet it has no clear definition so far. From the Greek philosophers up to present experts in knowledge management, people tried to define knowledge but the results are still very fuzzy. This chapter has the intention of showing the most significant aspects of the dispute over the definition of knowledge, and the main conceptual barriers in that endeavor. In the first part of the chapter we discuss about the knowledge nature and the attempts made in epistemology to define knowledge. The well-known definition that knowledge is justified true belief is shown to have the limitations given by the justification condition and the truth nature. In the second part, we consider the metaphorical approach to knowledge explanation and we present the main metaphors used for knowledge in the managerial literature: knowledge as objects, knowledge nuggets, knowledge as an iceberg, and knowledge as stocks and flows. In the last part, we introduce a new paradigm of metaphorical thinking based on the knowledge energy. This metaphor opens new opportunities for understanding knowledge as a multi-field paradigm composed of the rational, emotional, and spiritual knowledge fields.

Ettore Bolisani, Constantin Bratianu

2. The Emergence of Knowledge Management

The purpose of this chapter is to show that knowledge management emerged as a necessity in the post-industrial society and the new knowledge economy. Instead of starting from defining knowledge management and describing its functions to create a prescriptive framework, the chapter begins with the broad picture of the changes in the structure of economy and in its critical assets. These changes produced a new type of economy where scarcity of tangible resources has been replaced by the affluence of intangible resources, and the economic theories of resource optimization and profit maximization have been aligned to knowledge creation and business sustainability. The engine of knowledge economy is the knowledge-based organization, where the pressure of efficiency and productivity should be relaxed. Instead, there is a need to develop new metrics able to measure the quality of knowledge and to evaluate the contribution of organizational learning to the firm’s performance. Finally, the chapter presents the new attributes of knowledge workers and knowledge processes. Knowledge creation, acquisition, storing and retrieving, sharing and distribution, transformation and use become the components of knowledge management. Since knowledge and its functions constitute strategic resources, knowledge management bridges the gap between operational management and strategic management.

Ettore Bolisani, Constantin Bratianu

3. Knowledge as a Strategic Weapon

Knowledge has long been accepted as a strategic asset to achieve and maintain competitive advantage. The purpose of this chapter is to show how, in the literature, the connection between knowledge and strategy has been more or less clearly underlined. In the first part of this chapter, we will show why knowledge is increasingly considered one of the fundamental elements of value creation in business. Its strategic attribute became essential especially in the last decades, due to the turbulence of the business environment. Since the creation of economic value is the most important requirement for achieving success, this soon brings us to the idea of a strategy as a means of realizing it. In Sect. 3.2, a discussion about the notion of strategy will be provided, starting with the military original meanings of it. In Sect. 3.3 we will show how this notion has evolved over time as a result of a new equilibrium of forces between internal and external business environment. Finally, we will illustrate that knowledge has always been a central element in all the various perspectives on strategy and strategic thinking that can be found in the literature and managerial practice.

Ettore Bolisani, Constantin Bratianu

4. Understanding the Future for Strategy Formulation

The purpose of this chapter is to explain our perception of time by using metaphorical thinking and to show how we understand the concept of future within the framework of time, complexity and uncertainty. Strategies are built for future actions and understanding the nature and the content of future becomes important. Human mind developed, during its historical existence, a series of metaphors able to suggest new semantic dimensions of time and its role in structuring the future. Among all these metaphors those based on space are essential since time and space have been integrated by scientists in a complex n-dimensional space concept. Time specialization became, thus, the main cognitive pattern in dealing with time and the future. Due to the complexity of future it is important to explain the way we correlate variables describing events and phenomena, which means to address the linearity and nonlinearity paradigms. The chapter ends up by presenting the semantic dynamics of uncertainty and its role in defining probable futures, where we define corporate strategic objectives and design strategies able to achieve them.

Ettore Bolisani, Constantin Bratianu

5. Knowledge Strategies

This chapter treats one of the central topics of the book: the notion of knowledge strategy. It is a concept that has started to become popular in the managerial literature only recently, and mainly due to the upsurge of the idea of knowledge economy and the diffusion of knowledge management (KM) programs. As we have seen in previous chapters, knowledge has always been a key topic for strategic formulation. However, the notion of knowledge strategy means more, because it suggests that a company should adopt a strategy to manage its knowledge assets. So, in addition to planning production and delivery of products and services, deciding goals regarding profits and markets, expressing objectives about competitive positioning, a knowledge strategy represents the effort to plan activities of KM and, more generally, all resources and processes that, in a company, are devoted to developing knowledge and competences of people, boosting learning processes, facilitating storage, sharing and reuse. As the chapter will show, the definition of knowledge strategy is however difficult, and it is still necessary to clarify its contents and boundaries. Also, there is some confusion with other terms used in the literature (such as KM strategy or knowledge management strategy). In addition, there is the need to clarify if a knowledge strategy is just a part—or a derivation—of classic strategic formulation of companies, or if it has a special and distinct place that also deserves specific approaches and methods.

Ettore Bolisani, Constantin Bratianu

6. Knowledge and Strategy Formulation in a Turbulent World

In this chapter, we focus on strategy formulation, i.e. the process of formulation of a strategy for a company. For strategists, an ideal world is that where this process can take place systematically and with no ambiguity or uncertainties: goals are decided, data are collected and analyzed, and final decisions are taken and, later, implemented. Therefore, the intrinsic presence of sources of uncertainty and turbulence affect the way strategy formulation can be approached consistently.In addition, the introduction of the notion of knowledge strategy poses new challenges. Can the notion of knowledge strategy be some help for strategists, or does it add new complications to strategy formulation? How can a knowledge strategy be formulated? Is knowledge strategy formulation somewhat special? And how is it related to that of a company strategy? These are the main questions we address in this chapter.

Ettore Bolisani, Constantin Bratianu

7. Generic Knowledge Strategies

The purpose of this chapter is to introduce generic knowledge strategies, which aim at increasing the level of organizational knowledge and creating the intangible infrastructure for company strategies and achieving competitive advantage. The main characteristic of these generic strategies is that they can be developed in any organization although their success is related to a specific organizational context and a given business environment. The ontology of these generic strategies comes from the equilibrium dynamics of organizational knowledge and the correlation with the known-unknowns matrix. The generic knowledge strategies presented in this chapter are the following: exploitation strategies, acquisition strategies, sharing strategies and exploration or knowledge creation strategies. Exploitation knowledge strategies are designed in a similar way to low cost business strategies and efficiency models. This is a consequence of the fact that managers know what they know, which means that they know very well their intangible resources. Acquisition knowledge strategies are designed as a result of the identification of a strategic knowledge gap. Sharing knowledge strategies are specific for knowledge management and they contribute to increase the level of organizational knowledge by its diffusion within the whole organization. Exploration knowledge strategies focus on knowledge creation and on feeding the innovation process.

Ettore Bolisani, Constantin Bratianu

8. Strategic Performance and Knowledge Measurement

Measurement has generally considered integral part of strategic management: it is assumed that, to plan the goals of a strategy, we need a method to measure some strategic performances that define the success itself of the strategy, and makes it possible to control its implementation. So, when it comes to knowledge strategies, we may say that we need a way to measure strategic performances related to knowledge. In other words, we need some measurement system that can applied to KM and knowledge. How to measure knowledge has attracted the interest of scholars since more than two decades. Many techniques have been proposed but they are still far from becoming an established practice. They are very heterogeneous, are based on different foundations, and often derive from techniques formerly developed for other goals. A rationale to treat the problem still lacks, which is critical for both practice and research. The chapter attempts to give some order to this issue, which is still much debated in the KM and IC literature. Especially, the theoretical and methodological soundness of the various measurement techniques is questioned. By examining the extant literature, we will illustrate the state-of-the-art of knowledge measurement and the related implications for KM research and practice. We will analyze some classifications of the various measurement methods that have been proposed in the literature, and discuss their differences, point of strength and weakness. Also, their soundness from the point of view of a theory of measurement will be examined. Implications for research and practice are summarized in the conclusion.

Ettore Bolisani, Constantin Bratianu

9. Beyond Conclusion

Books end usually with some conclusion which emphasize the main contribution of the authors. That is also a standard request for published papers in international journals. It is a consequence of the western culture of breaking down the reality into pieces and events and searching for their proprieties, and more generally, adopting a precise order for the thread of reasoning. Each event has got a beginning and end. It is so embodied into our mind that we take it for granted to be natural. But if we change the perspective and consider the reality surrounding us as an endless whole then we have to consider events in their transformations, and each end as a new beginning. In that perspective, the present concluding chapter of this book is just a new introduction to another possible book. But more important, it is a new beginning of understanding how to think about the future and how to strategize in the knowledge management domain.

Ettore Bolisani, Constantin Bratianu
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