Knowledge Knows No Barriers

Education is simply the soul of a society

as it passes from one generation to another

 – Gilbert K Chesterton

        As per Delhi University first list, the cut off for admission into current academic session of commerce stream of SRCC for non commerce students is 100%,  whether it’s fair or otherwise on students is irrelevant but the fact is, there is a clamor for knowledge, a value adding one at that. The demand for an IIT or an IIM seat is so enormous that the coaching centres are reported to be raking in more revenues than these esteemed institutions themselves.  This is while not taking into consideration the aspirants spending a year or two exclusively for getting the necessary coaching to enter the portals of the elite institutions, which by itself would lead to a sizeable figure to arrive at an actual ‘spend’ on this value based knowledge acquiring spree.

Our honorable Union Minister for HRD could not have been more right in saying ‘‘the economic prosperity of nations depends on the conquering of new frontiers of knowledge”.  It’s through education that one acquires knowledge, the transmission of which among the human race results in collective wisdom and learning. There is a vital difference between education and knowledge. Education as it is practiced in schools and colleges is a process of teaching; training and learning to gain knowledge and acquire skills while knowledge per se is “ the information, the understanding and the ability one gets to apply”  the said education. As the country is in a transition from information society to knowledge based society there is a growing need to ensure hassle free development, transfer, and assimilation of the knowledge through revamping or streamlining our education system. The gap between the supply and demand of educated work force is reported to be 10 odd million and is growing. Sadly we are struck with the age old ‘education through examination’ syndrome and in the bargain ‘knowledge’ is getting relegated to backyard. Colleges and Universities are also expected to create knowledge through research based culture but unfortunately the ground realities convey a different picture altogether. All the IITs put together enroll about 500 Ph D Scholars every year and another 4500 from all other institutions of higher learning including our 300 plus universities while China churns out ten times over with its 1000 universities. That way China might even overtake USA in the next couple of decades as the world centre of higher learning.

Knowledge Economies

Despite being the most over regulated country in the world scoring 9.16 out of 10 as per a survey on Asian business and politics by Hong Kong based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) closely followed by China (9.04 points) India is still regarded as both a ‘knowledge economy’ and a ‘knowledge based economy’. Probably where the institutions of higher education are found wanting in creation of knowledge per se, the industries are successful in establishing their own knowledge pools and sources.  While this knowledge becomes a product in our knowledge economy, using this product as a developmental tool is what knowledge based economy is all about (Peter Drucker).  This very organizational knowledge then becomes a significant source of competitive advantage.  Knowledge as a capacity to act or apply resides within people and is of two types i.e. tacit and explicit (Nonaka and Takeuchi 1995). Tacit knowledge is subjective, personal, context specific and difficult to express, and has both technical and cognitive dimensions. Technical dimension is based on purely physical experience while the cognitive one is dependent on mental modes like values, beliefs, emotions and perceptions etc. Explicit knowledge is the one that can be expressed in words and can also be stored as data. Before we go on to the transfer or dissemination mode of this knowledge it is pertinent to discuss its creation first. The individual knowledge residing in people needs to be converted into organizational knowledge. Every department possesses its own knowledge bank and knowledge per se is not the sole prerogative of the R&D department. Each entity with all its sensory organs wide open goes through a process called ‘knowledge cycle’ where events lead to collection of data which then becomes information, ultimately resulting in what we call knowledge. These things come out of experience, reflection, conceptualization and finally experimentation which form part of a typical learning cycle (Kolb 1984). Knowledge and learning cycles are concentric and both need to keep moving if the organizations want to become knowledge based.

            Knowing is not enough; we must apply

            Willing is not enough; we must do

                                                                                     – JW Goethe

Knowledge Sharing

Knowledge that lies dormant is as good as dead, and there is little or no point in creating any, unless it is shared, applied, and further developed.  An organization should be able to build on both tacit and explicit knowledge where the most important thing is to ensure conversion of one into another to start with.  Here the concept of ‘knowledge worker’ propounded by Peter Drucker comes to the fore where key employees apply their knowledge to create new products and services and add value to their customers. The advent and emergence of technology has made it simpler for the organizations to create and disseminate knowledge, while safeguarding their own IPRs (Intellectual Property Rights) in the wake of severe attrition ridden scenario across and within the sectors.

Knowledge and HR

The transfer or dissemination of knowledge can take place through HR interventions like socialization of the employees and externalization or articulation of ideas etc, then there is a need for the employees to acquire knowledge through internalization by reading about, or even absorbing events around.  We can use yet another method called ‘combination’ where the explicit knowledge is shared explicitly or externally through all possible modes.  IT major Microsoft is believed to have developed its own model to nurture and transfer knowledge to retain competitive edge while Infosys has gone a step ahead in evaluating its intellectual capital to make a mention of it, in its balance sheet.  Creating and disseminating knowledge has become so vital and important that companies are now having Chief Knowledge Officers (CKO) whose sole job is to ensure knowledge friendly culture and flow of information.  Knowledge per se can even come from the customers too in terms of feed back which then could be used to develop new technologies as 3M and so many others did.

HR has a central and pivotal role to play both in creation and dissemination of knowledge within the organizations while the academic fraternity must make a more sincere effort in developing and furtherance of the knowledge base to augur well in our march towards becoming a developed economy.

            It takes considerable knowledge just to

            realize the extent of your ignorance

                                                                                         -Thomas Sowell

                                                                                                        – by Dr VRK Prasad

Ref:

  1. Knowledge Management Architecture (Professors Archana Shukla and R Srinivasan) Going Global: Leveraging Human Potential, National HRD Network 2000, Tata Mc Graw Hill (PP 130-143)
  2. The Economic Times, Hyd,   Dec 23, 2010
  3. The Economic Times, Hyd,   Jun 16, 2011 (TV Mohandas Pai)

About the Author

Dr VRK Prasad is associated with management education for over a decade now, as the head of a business school, having published more than 60 papers, five edited books and two self authored books, on various topics of management.  Presently he is the Pro VC of The Icfai University in Nagaland and also holds an operational assignment as the Director of Projects in the Icfai University Group.

(The above article originally appeared in January 2012 issue of INDIAN MANAGEMENT.)

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