The aims of knowledge management are to create knowledge and stimulate innovation. Knowledge management allows the knowledge of an organization to be located, shared, formalized, enhanced and developed. The challenges of knowledge management lie in creating environments that support knowledge sharing, knowledge creation, and innovativeness. This chapter examines challenges faced by Higher education institutions (HEI) in producing innovations and increasing their external impact on their regions. The most valuable assets of HEIs are the knowledge and skills embodied in human capital. The challenges of innovative HEIs can be derived from their customers’ needs, which usually cannot be met within a single discipline. This chapter explores the multidisciplinary development projects at HEIs and presents implications for the organizational structure supporting innovation and engagement of the institution with its region.
Background: Knowledge Management In Development Projects
The extreme complexity of many development projects causes problems if the internal processes do not support the development work. Although several studies have acknowledged the importance of multidisciplinary development projects and team learning (Drucker, 1998; Dyer and Hath, 2006; Koskinen, Pihlanto and Vanharanta, 2003; Ruuska and Vartiainen, 2005), sufficient attention has not been paid to the need to restructure HEIs to support knowledge creation and promote innovation.
The promotion of innovation can be planned and managed in a structured way. It is important that the internal processes and structures of the knowledge-intensive organizations support the rapid creation of innovations and ensure that the strategic objectives of an organization are achieved. Despite the need to manage the operations in a structured way, the organization must have flexibility and the ability to respond to customer needs, technological development and other environmental changes. The flexibility and ability to operate in a synergic and innovative way are competitive advantages of knowledge-intensive organizations.
Takeuchi and Nonaka (2004) argue that a key factor behind the success of Japan’s innovation and of its research and development companies is the widespread process of socializing knowledge. That means sharing and articulating tacit knowledge within temporarily assembled project teams through effective dialogue. Tacit knowledge consists of individual ability, memory, know-how and experience, which have not been articulated in explicit form such as presentations, reports, journal, databanks, manuals and training materials. Even though knowledge management can be described using some formal procedures it is a very flexible framework in which the steps and tasks of the development project are continuously redefined.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Combination Phase: New knowledge is combined with explicit knowledge of the organization in the combination phase of knowledge creation.
Knowledge Management: Knowledge management is a term applied to techniques used for the systematic collection, transfer, security and management of information within organizations, along with systems designed to assist the optimal use of that knowledge.
Externalization Phase: The externalization phase transforms tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge so that it can be communicated.
Explicit Knowledge: Explicit knowledge is easy to communicate. It can be expressed, for example, in written documents, tapes and databases.
Socialization Phase: Socialization is a process of sharing experiences and creating tacit knowledge as shared mental models and technical skills.
Internalization Phase: The explicit knowledge created in an organization is internalized in this phase. Learning by doing characterizes the emergence of tacit knowledge in this phase.
Tacit Knowledge: Tacit knowledge consists of the culture of an organization and in the skills, habits and informal decisions of its individual members.
Higher Education Institution: Higher education institutions include traditional universities and vocational institutions; in Finland these are referred to as “universities of applied sciences” or “polytechnics.”