The use of corporate business incubators in the knowledge economy
- Authors: Steyn, Pieter Dirk
- Date: 2009-01-15T13:11:16Z
- Subjects: Business incubators , Knowledge management
- Type: Thesis
- Identifier: uj:14795 , http://hdl.handle.net/10210/1871
- Description: M.A. , The impact of the New Economy on the enterprise is major and the change drivers required for success are pervasive and significant. At the same time traditional geographic boundaries to the flow of information and commercial transactions disappear. To position for success, the requirement to develop the capability to manage risk and operate under high levels of uncertainty becomes as important as the capacity for change. This demands a paradigm shift in management’s approach away from “the answer” to an approach which allows for portfolio management and the ability to investigate, fund and manage approaches to multiple strategic and operational options. The strategic challenges lies in when to lead and when to follow, the organisational challenge then becomes building flexibility, environment-sensing capabilities and an internal capacity to develop, nurture and harness knowledge and innovation. Whilst the benefits of leveraging innovation as a strategic business growth driver is accepted, the management of the process of doing so is manifestly difficult in most enterprises. This is due to outdated management processes and organisational structures, cultural prejudices caused by the enterprise being more comfortable with core activities and a lack of adequate skills within the enterprise to research, develop and manage innovative ideas to fruition. Enterprises can manage this process of leveraging innovation in a number of ways by inter alia, staff management via continuing education and training, a corporate culture with such characteristics as: “Off-line” innovation time, internal competition, knowledge management tools, cross- functional meetings, a knowledge capture Intranet, etc. and an organisational accountability which relates to a well-defined process that affords the enterprise and its employees the opportunity to move ideas across organisational boundaries without being inhibited by the usual organisational politics and turf-protection. An approach to this is via strategic internal consulting groups or a “New Ventures” division – essentially entities set up to incubate and manage new business opportunities Such a new venture division or business incubator requires as a critical component an established process and evaluation methodology to effectively manage innovation initiatives. This research will focus on the development, application and management of such a new ventures division along the structure of a business incubator. It is an accepted adage that all “healthy” enterprises generate and use knowledge, but this is, as with the management of innovation, easier said than done. Whilst many enterprises will simply hire smart people and leave them to their own devices, research have indicated that successful knowledge generation initiatives not only address the processes but also focus on the team structure and the internally on the working circumstances. Businesses faced with disruptive technologies such as the Internet find it very difficult to redesign or rearrange their organisational structures to face the challenges of the New Economy. Also there has always been a measure of distinct tension, between the boardrooms of enterprise and the technical, scientific or other resources on which the former depends for the creation of new wealth – the net result is that the role of the traditional “Corporate R&D” is being diminished. There is a strong perception that views the arrival of the incubator as an approach for corporates / enterprises to set this mindset apart and to get some speed, vitality, action and urgency back into enterprises inhibited by, inter alia, excessive bureaucracy. Although the concept of incubators has now surfaced in Europe and in South Africa, it is not new. What today underscores the interest is the success that enterprises like Idealab!, eToys, GoTo.com and NetZero achieved. The more comprehensive intra-enterprise or corporate incubators offer a range of services that exceed that of the traditional venture capitalist. Corporate incubation grew out of the realisation that innovation and entrepreneurship were severely limited by the typical corporate environment. In addition enterprises realised that they were losing their brightest talent and best innovative ideas as people left to start their own businesses. To this threat they responded by offering employees’ incentives to either build their ideas as enhancements to the current business, extensions or entirely as new spin-offs. These incentives were modelled on share participation, a "safe" best practice rich environment and access to corporate resources that in many instances culminated in corporate business incubators. Corporate incubators constitute a logical extension to knowledge management, innovation and R&D, as a means of profiting from intellectual capital and extending competitive advantage. Indeed it has been said that the only sustainable competitive advantage is continuous innovation. Incubators of various types are sine qua non with the dot.com start-up ventures towards the latter part of the nineteen nineties. It was viewed as one of many approaches to capitalise on knowledge available and to allow for the fast tracking of innovative advances. Many of these start-up incubators failed and incubators became looked upon as not being the ideal vehicle for innovative quick-to-market and thus first mover advantage. Yet, the very nature of the approaches used in an incubator lends it to the harnessing of knowledge and innovation in an enterprise which can be applied as part of a process to gain a competitive advantage from engaging in such a process.
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The development of a just-in-time (JIT) knowledge management model for an enterprise
- Authors: Steyn, Pieter Dirk
- Date: 2009-05-04T09:51:01Z
- Subjects: Knowledge management , Just-in-time systems , Knowledge workers
- Type: Thesis
- Identifier: uj:8352 , http://hdl.handle.net/10210/2477
- Description: D.Litt. et Phil. , There have been numerous approaches to Knowledge Management (KM) over the past number of years. In addition there is also confusion amongst enterprises and enterprise management as to the role and contribution of KM, the differences between information management, information technology and KM. There has been an overflow of information and “knowledge” in large enterprises and this situation will only worsen if not managed appropriately. Knowledge is now universally accepted as a factor of production and similar to other factors of production viewed as being scarce and expensive. The knowledge inventory of an enterprise should thus be managed in a similar manner as physical inventory – kept at the essential minimum level and to be provided at the time that it is required. The challenge to creating a successful knowledge enterprise is more reliant on the people aspects than technology per se and this view is supported by recent research. This situation is exacerbated by the diversity of participation amongst knowledge workers who as a “grouping” speaks a different language based on their perspectives of issues within and external to the enterprise. Because knowledge is not synonymous with information, information technology cannot deliver knowledge management, yet a large proportion of managements view information technology as the panacea for their failure at implementing successful KM or what they consider to be KM. Another concern of management is that current management approaches cannot handle imperfect information with certainty. Enterprises are thus faced with the situation of not being able to deliver the right information to the right person at the right time because enterprises are unable to predict what is the right information to distribute, who the right recipients of that information should be and all of this may take place under conditions of uncertainty – as found in today’s dynamic business environment. Defining knowledge from an enterprise management perspective or in terms of an organisational context present a number of issues. The most important being that there is no single all encompassing definition of KM. However, in terms of the objectives of this research a definition which relate the dimensions of time, delivery, the right information and the right recipient is applied. KM varies from the perspective of controlling knowledge processes within the enterprise to methods applied to the extraction of knowledge from the flow of information, internal and external to the enterprise. Recent thinking on KM distinguishes between demand-side KM and supply-side KM. The supply-side of KM is associated with the “delivery-oriented” assumptions that valuable knowledge exists within the enterprise and that it is the task of management to find it, codify it and place it into a repository. This is then followed by an approach which “decrees” and determine how it is to be distributed, e.g. via learning, databases, documents, etc. and to whom. Demand-side KM is initiated with an approach requiring a view of where does valuable knowledge exist within the enterprise, is what is required in existence, does it support the enterprise's strategies and how can the use thereof benefit the enterprise's competitive advantage? Obviously the proponents of both of these sides do see the need for closing the gap between supply and demand and that they are in fact complimentary activities. A view is taken on the KM approach / practices undertaken by the enterprise. There are a number of KM taxonomy approaches based upon the process applied in the enterprise to extract knowledge. An understanding of the different approaches employed is necessary to locate the role of the knowledge worker in the overall KM value chain. The knowledge processes approach is considered to be a factor of production where the person is central to the process as the carrier or owner of knowledge. Communication amongst individuals is of primary importance, especially in respect of the management of the enterprise and its outputs. This approach also considers an enabling culture in the enterprise to be a pre-requisite to the successful management of knowledge. The focus of this approach is on knowledge transfer through human interaction. Technology is recognised as playing a supporting role in this approach. Knowledge is more than information and also considers experience, skills, competencies and attitudes as part of knowledge created in the process of human interaction. The term Just-in-Time (JIT) can be defined as a production or inventory scheduling technique found within the more complex production logistics disciplines. JIT is more appropriately thought of as a philosophy as it is more than a mere set of management and production principles. KM JIT is an endeavour to provide the right knowledge at the right time to the right person. This requires an insight into the knowledge demand and supply process as well as the time horizon applicable to the knowledge required. Over the longer term business forecasts, environmental scans, strategic planning, etc. can be applied to close the gap between these variables. However, it is in the short term and immediate requirements that the present systems fail and management concerns are emphasised. To summarise the relationship: JIT KM searches for an optimisation of the matching process between demand and knowledge supply within enterprises, i.e. it endeavours to translate the logistic concept of JIT to the knowledge management field. In addition to JIT KM the concept of real-time KM is introduced as an alternative since present research indicates that the implementation of JIT KM presents major issues in terms of cost and development effort, restricting its use to mission critical applications. A more generic application for JIT KM need to be developed and it is contended that real-time KM fits the requirements of enabling the enterprise to be agile in respect of its ability to respond to present and future knowledge demands. The major difference between JIT KM and real-time KM being the latency of information concept which applies to the latter.
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