Friday, June 20, 2008

Knowledge management and Innovation management: Is the relationship more like live-in, marriage or divorced?

I wrote about some of the top challenges and non-challenges in innovation management in an earlier article. I facilitated a deep dive session on one of the challenges in our last k-community meeting hosted at Perot Systems, Bangalore. The topic was: “Knowledge management and Innovation management: Is the relationship more like live-in, marriage or divorce?” We had a good discussion with participants from Bosch, Honeywell, IISc, Mercer, Mindtree, TCS, Titan, Wipro apart from our hosts at Perot Systems. Here is a gist of the session:

There were primarily 2 schools of thought: one expressing the classical KM view where knowledge creation is considered an integral part of knowledge management. And the others feeling that knowledge management as it is practiced is primarily about improving the operational efficiency in the organization. And hence, it is more suitable for incremental innovation but not for radical innovation.

Advocates of the classical view stressed that collaboration both formal (through CoPs) and informal (coffee table discussion) are essential for creating radical ideas. And knowledge management function owns the responsibility to create an environment where such collaboration fosters. Many others felt there is a big gap between this view and where things stand today.

All agreed that there is a lot that can be leveraged by finding synergies among these two initiatives in the organizations. Unfortunately, many times these initiatives are under two different departments: KM comes under either quality or HR and IM under research, marketing or strategy dept. When both have their own sources of funding, and perhaps a purpose independent of each other, why marry?


  1. KM and IM seem to be made for each other ideally. But practically, they have probably just started dating each other...not sure how and where the relationship will lead...I repeat...practically speaking.

  2. KM is a lot more than this - I find what is outlined overly simplistic. The view of knowledge creation is not classic only, it is strategic thinking for today and tomorrow. If you dont take knowledge creation into account, you are not thinking strategically about KM, and then the KM effort is doomed for failure (slow or quick). Innovation Management is about knowledge creation applied strategically to increase the likelihood of a company's longevity with high impact. The organizations that are doing this as disparate activities are not seeing the interdependence between generative and consumptive aspects of knowledge. The organizations that are creating separate thrusts in these areas are creating political islands which will not accelerate, but worse, may even deccelerate the process.

  3. I wish there were more people like Raj who see things "strategically". IMO "Strategy" is even more poorly understood discipline than KM is, especially among the technology organizations in India (both captives and Indian HQed orgs). I have met many senior managers (VP or above) who candidly told me that they don't have any "strategy".

    But I like the way Raj articulates his thoughts. For him the view is as clear as "Sun rises on the east". I hope his view will make a few KM champions go and ask around what their strategy is.

  4. IMhumbleO :) both IM and KM though are interlinked are different disciplines, which needs to be addressed with focus.

    Well! If one function does both it is great, but usually one precedes the other depending on the school the champion is coming from.

    In many organizations KM function tries ‘annexing’ the IM function to justify the existence of KM function… as in IM one can show tangible results double-quick.