Knowledge management and innovation are considered to have significant impact on business management and development. The primary need for knowledge management lies in dynamic nature of the contemporary business world. The modern industry is constantly evolving, therefore,requires knowledge management for its survival (Dalkir2013). In this regard Drucker.Körand Maden 2013)explains that knowledge an important economic resource that has a dominant role in delivering competitive advantage to an organization. According to authors such as Plessis (2007) and Huang and Li (2009), knowledge accumulates within an organisation over generations and requires effective management for creation of knowledge in organisations. Practitioners, along with scholars, support the notion that organisations should focus on acquiring and sharing of information for achieving sustainable competitive advantage (Körand Maden 2013).
In this context, another important factor that plays a critical role in organisational development is innovation. Innovation positively affects organisation’s survival, performance, and competitiveness. Innovation involves not only new development but also addition towards existing products and services. As innovation involves new addition to existing product and services, it requires strong knowledge base (Plessis 2007). Therefore, it can be said that knowledge and innovation are intertwined aspects of business development. In this paper, the knowledge and innovation management have been evaluated from theoretical perspective and its practical implications have been evaluated with respect to Google.
Knowledge essentially comprises intangible assets such as contextual information, expert opinion, organisational values,framed experience, therefore,is highly fluid in nature (Hislop 2013). This essential characteristic of knowledge helps it generate an appropriate framework for evaluating and incorporating new information within organisational functionality (Uhlaner et al. 2007). It is noteworthy in this regard that knowledge is invariably embedded in an organisation in the form of physical documentation and repositories as well as in processes, norms, practices and routines. Interestingly, definitions of knowledge can be paradoxical in nature as knowledge exhibits features of being fluid as well as structured as per requirement. Furthermore, knowledge is often tacit yet requires to be made explicit at some point of time. In this regard, it is noteworthy that tacit knowledge is complex in nature as it is grasped in an implicit manner and difficult to articulate. Furthermore, scope of transferability is low in case of tacit knowledge (Auernhammer et al. 2003).
The importance of information management can be easily recognizedby considering its versatile nature and underlying complexity. Academician perspectives present multiple definitions of knowledge management wherein some scholars connect it with integration of innovation. Knowledge management, also known as knowledge strategy, involves transfer, sharing, and utilisation of knowledge (Auernhammer et al. 2003). According to authors such as Matayong and Kamil Mahmood (2013), knowledge management can be defined as access and formalisation of experience and expertise that result in innovation, value addition, superior performance,and quality consumer service. Knowledge based innovation is considered to be essential for organisation survival and,therefore,is considered as aprimaryof the pillars of competitive success.
Innovation is essentially associated with invention but it differs in accordance to the conceptual definitions.Innovation is often considered to be commercialisation of a particular invention so that the invention can be introduced in the market for consumption and firm’s profitability (Tiddand Bessant2014). The main difference between invention and innovation is that invention enhances knowledge repository while innovation establishes market presence of the product (Auernhammer et al. 2003). In this regard, innovation can be product, service,and organisation oriented,and it can be broadly classified as disruptive and incremental innovations. Nonetheless, any kind of innovation involves knowledge utilisation. For instance, new information and expertise are essential for radical innovation while existing knowledge is essential for incremental innovation (Krempand Mairesse 2004; Uhlaner et al. 2007).
It has been previously highlighted that knowledge is a crucial aspect of organisational development,as a result, it has omnipresence in the process of organisational learning (Gutiérrez, Bustinza,and Molina2012). Without consistent flow of knowledge and shared experience, an organisation cannot grow. Therefore, acquisition, transferand retention of knowledge can be referred as organisational learning (Argote 2012). According to this notion, it can be suggested that organisational learning and knowledge management are similar concepts. However,Easterby-Smith and Lyles (2011)criticized that organization learning typically focuses on the process of knowledge development while knowledge management is essentially about quality of the content. Other conceptualization suggests that organizational learning is one of the essential goals of knowledge management.
Knowledge management critically emphasizes on application and dissemination of information and, thereby, embedding the same within organizational processes for encouraging continuous development and innovation. This argument establishes that organizational learning is essentially for utilization of organizational knowledge. King (2009) discussed about organizational learning cycle with respect to knowledge. He pointed that the learning process and knowledge development and its usage are interlinked in a circular form. His perspective was that organizational knowledge development is a continuous process,and organizational learning contributes therein by utilizing the knowledge in institutionalizing changes and improvements.
Organisational learning can be observed in the form of learning curves in the modern business world. Often, these kinds of curves are referred as experience curves or progress curves (Argote 2012). Argoteand Miron-Spektor (2011) opined that the learning rate differs from one organisation to another. They observed that some organisations exhibit significant growth through experiential learning while others achieved little productivity by utilising knowledge base. Argote (2012) discussed about certain contemporary research trends in this regard while evaluating the variation in impact of knowledge utilisation. She highlighted that expanded set of outcomes has a significant impact on the learning curve and can be used as function of knowledge and experience. Furthermore, the author emphasised on understanding production differences and organisation forgetting as these factors influence effective implementation of knowledge management with respect to organisational learning.
Broadly, two perspectives or frameworks have been highlighted with respect to knowledge management, namely, process framework and market framework.
The vast literary work on knowledge management has been determined to be essentially depended on theoretical perspectives,but it requires justifying the managerial queries. For resolving the management conflict, Grover and Davenport (2001) have proposed the process framework. This perspective emphasizes on knowledge process and its relevant context in which it is embedded. They further pointed that the processes can beeither emergent or deliberate in nature. Deliberate processes are referred to those organization initiatives towards knowledge management that have been performed or undertaken consciously. On the contrary, emergent knowledge processes can be invisible in nature and directly associated with the organisational processes. However, both processes co-exist within organisation,and their convergence is essential for an effective knowledge management process. The process framework essentially provides answer to various questions raised by practitioners regarding integration of knowledge management with business strategy, organisation culture, behaviour and work process (Grover and Davenport 2001).
Transactional transfer of knowledge is the most common form of knowledge exchange taking place within a market framework and is often considered for understanding the transfer of information from one group to another. It is noteworthy that knowledge market exists in all organisations and not only the internal parties but also for the external parties of the organisation participate herein (Grover and Davenport 2001). In these markets, synthesised (codified) knowledge in the form of organisational processes, strategy, technologies,and structures are exchanged along with those between various suppliers and buyers. Based on knowledge requirement, the transactional perspective classifies the buyers as global buyers and local buyers. In the market framework, the primary buyers are organisational stakeholders with strong interest in organisational outcome where the sellers are mostly tacit knowledge holders. As per this perspective, the quality of information and market efficiency essentially depends on product standardisation, information symmetry, consumer homogeneity, and nature of currency (Grover and Davenport 2001).
Google is one of the most innovative technology firms that has successfully established its market leadership in the area of hard and soft technologies. The company has been chosen for the assessment of knowledge management within organisational framework because it has been argued by academicians that pioneering a market by means of breakthrough technological innovation is impossible without strong knowledge base (Oke 2007). Google presents to the world one of the most efficient search engines along with other free as well as payable services. These products are developed by the corporation essentially after thorough research of consumer requirement. Google being a multinational corporation has access to global knowledge base and is known for development of knowledge repositories (Insead Knowledge 2013).
Google’s knowledge based innovation ecosystem seeks to gain knowledge from internal as well as external parties by means of open interaction. It depicts the transactional perspective or the market framework of knowledge management. The growth of the company essentially abides by various requirements of the market framework where open and equal access is presented to its technologies,and a common standard is maintained. Furthermore, an open system with consistent interaction between suppliers and buyers allows continuous flow of information which is integrated in the organisational processes for betterment and competitive advantage. Through its open system of knowledge management, Google has developed simple yet breakthrough innovations and, thereby, has established a competitive and highly dynamic position in the market (Google 2009).
A culture of knowledge sharing and knowledge development has been fostered in Google where employees are encouraged to invest their time towards various personal projects along with organisational projects. In other words, employees are empowered to use their knowledge for integrating creativity and innovation. Besides organisation level knowledge, Most of the endeavours of Google are result of personal knowledge and experience by its organisational members (Brown 2007). In the contemporary world, consumers’ perspective is crucial for product development. Knowledge plays a significant role in delivering consumer’s perspective to the organisation (Yoon, Cole,and Lee 2009; Jantunen 2005). This is true in case of Google where the company invests significantly to gain information regarding consumers’ requirements and preferences and integrate the same in organisational process and product development (Brown, 2007).
Knowledge sharing is encouraged highly in Google and various platforms have been developed for greater communication and thereby, contribution towards innovation. Some of the effective communication channels implemented at Google are originated at Google Café, direct mail and Google moderator. Some of these channels are innovative outcomes developed by Google employees. For instance, Google moderator is an indigenous communication platform of the company where employees share their ideas, discuss existing ideas,and seek suggestions. This innovation typically represents the organisational learning cycle where knowledge leads to an innovation,and the same innovation is used for accessing further knowledge. Google’s business environment makes constant usage of its dynamic knowledge repositories for pioneering the market by means of radical as well as incremental innovations (Forbes 2013a; 2013b).
The contemporary business world highlightsthe adoption of certain knowledge management strategies that have significant positive impact on the organisation in long run (Wiig 2012). Over the years, Google search engine has accumulated massive amount of data which can presently be converted into a knowledge vault. According to existing studies, these data present consumers unprecedented access to numerous global facts. The most important and interesting factor in this process is that it is automatically embedded in the organisational process and does not require external human assistance. Invariably, this practice points towards emergent knowledge process initiatives (Forbes 2013a; 2013b).
The knowledge management practices in Google influence its learning curve, organisational structure,and leadership style. At present, Google has flat organisational hierarchy so that employees are empowered to bring out their creativity. Furthermore, integration of information at every level enables the company to focus on its core strengths. Participative and network driven decision making enables the company to establish power sharing and collaborative approach to problem solving. Moving forward, it is noteworthy that creation of a vastly automated global knowledge vault is an outcome of collaborative approach of Google. The corporation has ensured that knowledge integration is clearly reflected in its business strategies, organisational processes and culture (Forbes 2013a; 2013b).
Knowledge shares an intertwined relationship with innovation and organisational learning. In recent years, importance of information and knowledge has influenced the contemporary business organisations and is also being considered as their source of success. In this paper, knowledge management and its impact on organisations have been compared and contrasted with respect to innovation and organisational learning. Furthermore, contemporary research trends in this regard have also been discussed in detail. It was noted that inventions areoutcome of knowledge, and they are presented in the marketplace by means of innovation.
It was also observed that innovation is not only useful for organisational profitability but also for internal organisational growth. Besides innovation, knowledge is essential for consistent organisational learning and, thereforehas contribution towards reduction in error and enhancement in productivity. In this context, the knowledge management practices and their importance was assessed and examined at Google. It was observed that knowledge management framework influences the corporation’s overall organisational structure. Google’s learning curve and innovation is determined to be essentially influenced by knowledge acquisition, processing,and integration. The analysis claims that knowledge management is a crucial aspect of every organisation and contributes vastly towards its competitive advantage.