Managing Knowledge for Innovation

Innovation is often cited as a primary reason for organizations to get involved with knowledge management (KM)–a term used to refer to any systematic efforts to capture and disseminate all of the knowledge that people and groups possess in an organization. After more than a decade of knowledge management (KM) research, we are still not certain how knowledge is created and transformed into business value. Managers This is a problem, because managers want to know how KM contributes to creativity and innovation.

Over the past few years, our understanding of KM has been fundamentally transformed. The inflows and outflows of knowledge have expanded to accelerate internal innovation and expand the markets for external use of innovation. Alternative approaches to organizing for innovation– in an open environment with multiple participants (i.e., customers, suppliers, partner firms, and developers) in communities or markets, seem to hold great potential to distribute organizational knowledge. These new methods and organizational structures engage a broader base of outside knowledge holders.  Yet, they raise important new issues about how knowledge is created and applied to derive business value, generate new ideas, and develop new products and solutions.

With my colleagues Benbya Hind and Lynne Cooper, we are organizing a minitrack on knowledge management for Creativity and Innovation at the Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences.  The conference will be held in Kauai, and we are looking for papers on a variety of emerging topics on Creativity and Innovation (including knowledge co-creation in communities, markets and open platforms, and ideas lifecycle management).

You can find more details about potential topics and how to submit proposals on the following website:

The deadline for full manuscripts submissions is June 15th, 2009.

6 thoughts on “Managing Knowledge for Innovation

  1. Keith – Interesting post – hope the session goes well. One point I would like to make. Any organisations that tries “to capture and disseminate all of the knowledge that people and groups possess in an organization” is doomed to fail. I don’t think that definition of KM is at all helpful because i. it is impossible and ii. does not articulate an outcome. There are other ways of describing that are more helpful.

    1. Thank you for your comment! Of course, that definition represents the non-reachable ultimate goal of knowledge management. But it’s an asymptote which we work towards. I like your idea of articulating an outcome, but do you think the outcome is central to the definition of KM? Then, what outcome would you add to the definition?

  2. You’ve struck a chord that’s dear to me.

    I’m presenting a paper next week at TRIZCon in Los Angeles that speaks to some of the problems inherent in modern KM, and how aspects of a creativity methodology (TRIZ) can be leveraged to facilitate and expand knowledge transfer in engineering and innovation organizations.

    For mode information, please have a look at my abstract at

    I would be interested in submitting the paper for your conference, if you thought it was appropriate (feel free to contact me directly).

    Thanks, and best regards,

    Jim Belfiore, Certified Innovation Master
    Sr. Director, Client Innovation and Practices
    Invention Machine Corporation

    1. I love your title “Certified Innovation Master”! Who does the certification I wonder?

      I’ve looked at your TRIZ talk summary and it looks interesting. Of course, we encourage you to submit a paper to HICSS!

  3. Keith,

    I’m more interested in definitions that explain KM to business people rather than aim for academic rigour – so please bear that in mind in what follows. At its simplest, I say “KM means enabling your workforce to work smarter”.

    A couple of other issues:

    I think that in a business context, you will not get far if you cannot articulate an outcome. Many KM programs have failed for precisely that reason. The outcome is often specific to the KM effort. Is it about improving effectiveness or efficiency? Is it about improving staff productivity? Is it about reducing organisational risk due to lost expertise & experience?

    And I am uncomfortable with your point about the asymptote. Again many first generation KM programs failed precisely because they tried to manage too much. A holistic approach with a tight focus is probably best – “think global, act local”.

    This article is now old but still very relevant:

    1. Yes, I agree with you completely about business success being the ultimate measure. And, thank you for that article link, I just read it and it’s very good.

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