It's not just rocket science -- businesses need many different kinds of knowledge to compete

In business, the most brilliant new ideas can fail if not fully supported by many other forms of knowledge that already exist in the organisation.

Outcomes of the Economic and Social Research Council's Evolution of Business Knowledge (EBK) research programme, that focuses on shifts in the way businesses create and exploit knowledge, will be highlighted at a one-day conference due to take place on Tuesday 17 October 2006 at the CBI Conference Centre in London. The event will bring together leading researchers, business stakeholders and policymakers. It will not only be an opportunity to learn about the findings of the 14 projects that make up the EBK programme but also to hear the views of prominent thinkers and practioners who are contributing to the knowledge economy debate.

To be competitive, the creation and exploitation of different forms of knowledge is important to all businesses. Knowledge can be generated through the big R&D and high-tech programmes favoured by many politicians. However, many other areas of knowledge are equally important. For example, even the boring kinds of management and organisational knowledge that create processes and systems can play a crucial role in supporting and sustaining innovation. At the micro-level, processes and relationships need to be managed such that knowledge flows across and between all parts of the organisation and, increasingly, between organisations too.

"At the conference, we won't be presenting a broad canvas depicting overall trends in the UK economy. Instead, we'll be painting rich miniatures that show knowledge is important to all types of businesses," said Professor Harry Scarbrough, EBK Programme Director. "We will also illustrate some of the hidden constraints on firms' ability to create and exploit knowledge."

These constraints include, small business owners who are too concerned with 'fire-fighting' to develop organisational routines that would provide them with the ability to shift their business to a higher level or, in larger businesses, management knowledge that has become inward looking, or centred too much on the established identity of the firm. EBK findings have also raised concerns about the lack of real knowledge transfer between independent business consultants and their corporate clients.

"BBC TV's Dragons' Den programme shows that you need to come up with new ideas and have business acumen, but EBK projects also illustrate how hard it is to achieve this magic combination," said Professor Scarbrough. "Unfortunately, creators of new ideas and the business people who manage them, or exploit their ideas, are often on different sides of some big cultural divides. The research done as part of the EBK programme is a step towards addressing this."

The conference programme sets out to provide answers to questions increasingly faced by organisations across all sectors, including:

  • How can we acquire the management skills and thinking needed to survive in highly competitive environments?

  • What are the organisational choices faced if we're to speed up innovation?

  • How do we develop greater openness to new ideas and values?

  • What does it mean for accounting and reporting systems if we see knowledge as a real business asset?

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Professor Harry Scarbrough, tel: 024 7652 3840 or 077 8874 2269, or e-mail: harry.scarbrough@wbs.ac.uk Or Annika Howard, Communications and PR Manager at ESRC, on 01793 413119

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

1. Professor Scarbrough is the EBK Programme Director and is based at Room EO.24 (Social Studies Building), Warwick Business School, The University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL.

2. The ESRC's Evolution of Business Knowledge programme is a major investigation into the way businesses acquire and apply knowledge in their quest for competitiveness. It brings together leading researchers, business people and policy-makers to explore how well UK businesses are adapting to the demands of a knowledge-based economy.

For further details visit the website: www.ebkresearch.org

3. The EBK Research Programme Final Conference is being held on Tuesday 17 October 2006 at the CBI Conference Centre, Centre Point, 103 New Oxford Street, London, WC1A 1DU. In addition to presentations from 14 EBK research projects and other interested parties, the conference will include keynote addresses by leading figures in business, policy-making and international research, including: Professor Ian Diamond, Chief Executive, ESRC; Ben Verwaayen, CEO, BT Group; Vicky Price, Chief Economic Adviser, DTI; and Professor Georg von Krogh, ETH, Zurich.

4. The ESRC is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It provides independent, high quality, relevant research to business, the public sector and Government. The ESRC total expenditure in 2005-06 was 135million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and research policy institutes. More at http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk

5. ESRC Society Today offers free access to a broad range of social science research and presents it in a way that makes it easy to navigate and saves users valuable time. As well as bringing together all ESRC-funded research (formerly accessible via the Regard website) and key online resources such as the Social Science Information Gateway and the UK Data Archive, non-ESRC resources are included, for example the Office for National Statistics. The portal provides access to early findings and research summaries, as well as full texts and original datasets through integrated search facilities. More at http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk

6. The ESRC confirms the quality of its funded research by evaluating research projects through a process of peer review. Sometimes, the ESRC publishes research before this process is finished so that new findings can immediately inform business, Government, media and other organisations.


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