Tuesday, January 30, 2007

My Calling - Part 2

I’m sure all of you have been in a situation where you just slap your forehead and go…”Hey! Now, why didn’t I think of that?” Worse, it can hit you anytime, be it while you are in the middle of a conversation or while listening to a speaker at a talk or while quietly watching a TV programme.

In my case, the forehead slapping episode happened while reading the book ‘Intellectual Capital: The New Wealth Of Organizations’ by Thomas Stewart and in this issue I will elaborate on the profound effect the book had on me.

Lest you think this is a book review, it’s not because I know there are plenty of books like Stewarts’s in the market now but for the basis of discussion, I am using his book as a case in point.

I realise that the discussions may be academic, unavoidable at times, but in this column I’ll try to confine my thoughts on knowledge management to what the “man of the street” needs to know about this subject.

The gist of the book discusses about the other types of capital that most organizations have ignored until recently.

If you think about it, organizations spend a lot of money building business empires and always put priority on acquisition of the land, buildings and even blue chip stocks but fail to capitalise on their biggest assets in this new economy.

These assets, as Stewart explains succinctly in his book, are the three types of intellectual capital that exist within the organization that have often been left untapped. Worst still some organization couldn’t even bother to look at them.

Stewart opined that intellectual capital is divided into three types, namely human capital, structural capital and customer capital. (Another thought leader in the field, Karl Erik Sveiby uses the Competency, Internal Structure and External Structure.)

The “types” that Stewart describes makes a lot of sense and struck me as very logical, something I had always believed in and what I have always wanted to explore further.

What strikes me most (and my forehead gets slapped again) after reading the book is that most what Stewart said is something that we are already dealing with everyday, yet we fail to realise it.

Human capital basically is looking at what sort of competency and skills that an organization has, the wealth of knowledge within its employees. It is these core competencies that the organization has to manage and leverage upon.

Think about it. If you spend a lot of time and money to train an employee and to have them gain these core competencies, then you should know how best to make their knowledge work for you and to retain it within the organization.

Let’s face it, it’s just common sense really and, ironic as it may be, it is always common sense that somehow escapes us.

Just think about it: organizations spend a lot of money on employees training and learning but knowledge gained are not retained or shared.

Most organizations also spend a lot of money on trips, study tours and benchmarking exercises and yet again fail to leverage the knowledge gained.

With a lot of learning organization still make mistakes - worst still – keeps repeating the very same mistakes over and over again.

A lot of organizations claim to be a learning organization but the ‘Silo’ working environment still prevails, meaning that there is very little sharing and everyone is trying to be protective of whatever knowledge they have.

The organization does not realise that it has gained enough competence over the years but, probably due to poor knowledge management, it is willing to spend a lot of money to hire outside experts to do a job that it’s own staff is capable of.

To conclude, I would surmise that in many such organisations there has not been enough knowledge sharing and leveraging on collective ‘know how’. The question to ponder is, how do we leverage on this human capital? Stay tuned

No comments: