Developing Innovation for a Knowledge-Based Economy

Developing Innovation for a Knowledge-Based EconomyOne of the more recent ‘buzz-words’ in management is the concept of the knowledge-based organisation. Governments have even begun to talk about promoting “knowledge-based economies”. A knowledge driven economy is one in which the generation and exploitation of knowledge plays the predominant part in the creation of wealth. Of critical importance to the successful development of a knowledge-based economy is the ability of firms to foster creativity and innovation. Knowledge is more than just information. It is the ideas and intellectual property that can be the wellspring of new business ventures and new product development.

Fostering creativity and innovation within an organisation is the principal challenge of managers in the 21stcentury. Innovation is a process of seeking market opportunities through identifying the value potential in existing operations and adapting them to generate new business or enhance existing business. Successful innovation is frequently simple and understandable. Innovation is not intrinsically difficult and does not have to involve high risk. A successful innovation is usually a response to a market need identified by the entrepreneurial organisation or individual. Incremental rather than revolutionary change is usually more important.

Most organisations with good track records in innovation make this a part of their culture. Innovation among organisations is frequently characterized by their willingness to tackle even the most demanding customers. Innovative companies also have the ability to identify access and use the external environment for expertise and knowledge, as well as valuing the skills and expertise of their employees. Within such firms interaction between skilled workers with technical skills enhances creative opportunities and the generation of new ideas. Innovation, therefore, seems to involve not only new ideas and their development, but also change and risk. It is a positive force for any enterprise seeking to develop competitive advantage.

Managers seeking to encourage innovation must realise that it is closely linked to human creativity. Fostering creativity within an organisation requires some or all of the following:

  1. A tolerance of risk taking and failure;
  2. The ability to process information and generate new, original and meaningful ideas;
  3. A willingness to grant substantial autonomy to employees over decision making;
  4. The capacity for employees to set their own goals; and
  5. The creation of opportunities for employees to exchange ideas, skills and behaviours through a process of interactive learning.

Senior managers should consider how important knowledge or intellectual capital is to their competitiveness. If the answer finds it of greater importance than physical plant and equipment they should examine their corporate culture to see if it encourages or discourages innovation and knowledge creation. Ideally the company will possess a strong set of core values that emphasize innovation, diversity and flexibility. Forcing everyone to fit the “corporate mould” may prove counterproductive.

Push down the leadership in the company by giving greater responsibility to front line managers and employees. Encourage employees to exchange ideas, share knowledge and work together to solve problems in a collaborative way. Reward enterprise and discourage negativity, particularly the kind that suppresses new ideas.

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Tim Mazzarol is Director of the Centre for Entrepreneurial Management and Innovation (CEMI) at the University of Western Australia. He is a Qualified Practicing Market Researcher who specializes in marketing, strategy, entrepreneurship and innovation.  Tim also serves as President of Small Entreprise Association of Australia and New Zealand.

Tim Mazzarol




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  1. Jeff on July 18, 2013 at 10:26 am

    I am glad to find this information today as i am behind these process of knowledge sharing however it must be done but i have 1 question for the the group of innovative thinkers with all this built up creativity , why is it looking at things simpler is so distracting for us as knowledge investors which leads to my question of why are we going to other planets and spending on those thoughts when here in our own world we dont even have bridges across our own oceans to help unite the peoples information except what you can put in a suitcase what exactely are we going to do on another planet , i want to drive myself to your country threw underwater tunnels and cross massive bridges and get gas from underwater cites harvesting the knowledge of our deep oceans and then share my knowlege of this world .

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