How to manage

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                                          How to
G                                         knowledge
               one are the days
               when agriculture, in-
               dustry and – more re-
               cently – services were
               the great wealth crea-
tors. Over the past decade, knowledge
has been the biggest creator of wealth
and it is the knowledge economy that
has to create a sustainable, com-
                                          In the modern economy it is knowledge that
petitive environment, says Dr Juani       makes the world go round, and companies
Swart, professor extraordinaire in
Knowledge and People Management           and governments have a role to play, writes
at the USB and director of the Work
and Employment Research Centre at         Jana MaraIs.
the Bath University School of Manage-
ment in England.
   The idea that knowledge plays an
                                          nesses, Swart says, and it should fit    propriately, says Swart.
important role in the economy is not
                                          in with the culture, structure and          An inverse relationship exists be-
a new one, says Prof André Roux,
                                          management processes of the organi-      tween knowledge and technology: the
director of the Institute for Futures
                                          sation.                                  more specialised the knowledge, the
Research at the University of Stellen-
                                              “Knowledge is incredibly impor-      simpler the technology that is need-
bosch. “All economies, today and in
                                          tant and it is unique. All other re-     ed, according to Swart.
history, are based on knowledge of
                                          sources can be copied by competi-           “If you’re looking for sophisticated
how to farm, how to mine and how to
                                          tors,” she says. “Companies need an      knowledge, technology can send the
produce goods.”
                                          open culture that drives organisation-   user in the right direction, for exam-
   The American industrialist Andrew
                                          al learning and the renewal and shar-    ple by saying who the expert in the
Carnegie realised this a century ago,
                                          ing of knowledge. We, as a society,      organisation is. On the other hand,
saying that knowledge and the abil-
                                          must move away from a culture that       less sophisticated knowledge needs
ity of employees is the only capital
                                          says knowledge is power. Knowledge       more sophisticated technologies
a company cannot replace. The pro-
                                          is dynamic and the more we share         such as databases,” she says.
ductivity of this capital depends on
                                          knowledge, the more the individual          However, staff must have the de-
how effectively employees share their
                                          and the organisation will learn.”        sire and the motivation to share
knowledge with the employees who
                                              Companies should spend time on       knowledge. In companies where em-
need to do the work, Carnegie said.
                                          understanding what strategic know-       ployees have a strong loyalty to the
   “What is different today is the in-
                                          ledge exists inside and in the net-      organisation – usually companies
creasing intensity of the knowledge,
                                          works outside the company. Merely        with a strong values-based culture
as well as the speedy globalisation of
                                          implementing expensive information       – and where employees are offered
economies,” Roux says.
                                          technology systems won’t help –          the space to work with freedom and
   Knowledge management should
                                          knowledge must also be managed ap-       autonomy and are allowed to develop
be on the strategic agenda of all busi-

AGENDA NO 2 / 2010 /

              Prof Juani Swart,                Prof André Roux,                Prof Marius Ungerer,
              USB                              Institute for Futures           USB
                                               Research, SU

their own knowledge, it is easier to                                                  “The benefit of knowledge doesn’t
implement a successful knowledge                                                   have to end in a game where one
management strategy, says Swart.            ‘All other resources                   party does not benefit at all,” Roux
    Workers must be encouraged to                                                  says. “The challenge for any coun-
share knowledge in a way that they
                                               can be copied by                    try or company in the knowledge
are comfortable with, and there must
be recognition for the knowledge they
                                                  competitors.                     economy is to ensure that it remains
                                                                                   at the cutting edge of the generation
share, she says.                               Knowledge is the                    and analysis of relevant knowledge to
    “It doesn’t help to focus on only                                              use (new) resources more effectively
one of the empowerment mecha-                      only unique                     to produce (new) products and ser-
nisms. Firstly, the strategically impor-                                           vices.”
tant knowledge must be identified,                   resource.’                       According to Ungerer, govern-
and then the company must ensure                                                   ments play an important role in es-
the right culture, technology and                                                  tablishing a knowledge economy and
                                           management is to record and share
structure are in place to support the                                              in helping organisations to compete
                                           this knowledge.”
knowledge strategy. When you have                                                  successfully in a world economy
                                              According to Ungerer, Sasol and
a strategic knowledge management                                                   where knowledge is of increasing
                                           SABMiller are examples of South Af-
system in place, it must be re-evaluat-                                            importance. The most important in-
                                           rican companies that successfully
ed and adapted continually.”                                                       put for successful, knowledge-driven
                                           apply locally developed and unique
    According to Marius Ungerer, pro-                                              companies and economies is the qual-
                                           knowledge to succeed internation-
fessor in strategic management at the                                              ity of a country’s human capital. It re-
USB, knowledge-based organisations                                                 quires a healthy school system with
                                              The emergence of new economic
are playing a more central role in                                                 quality maths and science education
                                           giants like China, which are increas-
both developed and developing coun-                                                in particular, and governments that
                                           ingly investing in the development of
tries. The contribution of developing                                              make capital available for research
                                           new knowledge, should not have to
countries to the knowledge economy                                                 and development, he says.
                                           mean that the West will lose its com-
is increasing, but the biggest invest-                                                In addition, favourable environ-
                                           petitive advantage over time.
ments in research are still done by                                                ments should be created that are
countries like Japan and the US, and                                               attractive for high-level knowledge
now also China.                                                                    management people to work in. The
    While developing countries in-           ‘Staff must have                      creation of innovation parks in Gaut-
creasingly gain access to new tech-                                                eng and Cape Town is a step in the
nologies, access alone is not enough.       the desire and the                     right direction, says Ungerer.
“It is about more than registering new                                                “Government and the private sec-
patents. Companies must have the            motivation to share                    tor must take hands and combine
knowledge to harness new machines
and technologies optimally,” says Un-
                                                knowledge.’                        South Africa’s unique knowledge to
                                                                                   the advantage of the country as a
gerer. “The challenge of knowledge                                                 whole,” he says. a

AGENDA NO 2 / 2010 /