To gain competitive advantage, organizations rely on innovation as a crucial process to adapt to the ever-changing environment and to bring innovative products to the market. Innovation is a combination of ideas and knowledge that brings positive change and value to the organization. Whenever we talk about ideas and innovations, we inevitably talk about knowledge.
Knowledge management is defined as creation, evolution, exchange and application of new ideas into marketable goods and services, leading to the success of an organization. From the moment when the idea is born, developed through collaboration with diverse experts, to the time when it is launched and tracked on the market – knowledge is an integral part of each step of the process. Knowledge management supports and proves the fact that innovation is the main competence needed for success. That is why proper knowledge management that is linked and interconnected to your innovation management system is bound to contribute to the organizations’ innovation capabilities and provide long-term success.
Classification of the knowledgeUnderstanding the different forms of knowledge and being able to differentiate between various types of knowledge, is an essential step for knowledge management. Within the organization and as defined in knowledge management theory, there are 4 different types of knowledge:
- Explicit knowledge is formal and documented knowledge that is easily accessible, documented and applied. It can be easily shared with others in the form of data, specifications, manuals, but also plans, technical specifications and innovation projects within an organization. The organization that quickly shares explicit knowledge across its departments creates competitive advantages over its competition with slow or no knowledge transfer.
- Tacit knowledge is personal knowledge and it includes the knowledge of employees and managers in an organization. It represents the combination of their expertise, experience, skills, ideas, abilities and values. As it is the result of employees’ practice and experience, it is very hard to articulate and transfer it to others, and it has not been formalized or documented anywhere in the organization’s knowledge base. Tacit knowledge is transmitted by communication, collaboration and interaction between employees.
- Market knowledge implies knowledge about the needs, demands and requirements of customers and their business processes. The more an organization knows and understands about customers and markets, the better the opportunities for innovation it has. Market knowledge is very useful for the complete innovation process because:
· It provides customer feedback on their needs and requirements
· It provides an assessment of the value of new products/services
· It improves communication and collaboration among the organization and its customers.
- Technological knowledge is knowledge of manufacturing or production methods and tools, including the employees’ level of education, their work and technological experience. This type of knowledge is difficult to copy and hard to transfer as it is developed through specific investments rather than from a collection of generally available knowledge.
Today, the complexity of innovation is constantly increased by the growth of the generated knowledge available to the organization. The development and use of new knowledge are the basis for innovation, further confirming the strong connection between knowledge and innovation. Organizations possess the knowledge as an intangible resource and should share it from one department to another, or even to other organizations. By combining knowledge and ideas, inside and outside the organizations, they can create new knowledge on the basis of the existing one. Knowledge is considered as a transferable and inevitable resource that is essential for creating innovations. Therefore, strong innovation management systems must support knowledge management, making it always accessible and easy to transfer. That is why innovation and knowledge always go hand in hand!
And, how do you connect knowledge and innovation?