Knowledge Management and Innovation in Indian Software Firms
Over the last decade, India has managed to brand itself as a leader in Information Technology. But, with rising cost pressures and increasingly stringent regulations, Indian firms now face a tough challenge which can be successfully tackled using knowledge management and innovation. In this interview, Sourav Mukherji, a professor in the Organisational Behaviour & Human Resources Management department at IIM Bangalore, who has done extensive research on KM and Organizational Learning, provides his insights on the growing importance of Knowledge Management and how Indian firms should employ such robust systems to power innovation by leveraging their domain knowledge and expertise.
The dynamically changing environment has led to the dissolution of traditional concepts of products and services. The emphasis is increasingly on innovation and creativity. Realizing this, firms across the globe have started building Knowledge Management(KM) systems in order to facilitate a culture which promotes efficient usage of its intellectual capital. The biggest challenge faced by Indian firms implementing KM systems is to motivate employees to contribute to and utilise the existing knowledge pool by overcoming traditional notions which discourage imitation and copying. Firms which have overcome such obstacles have reaped good dividends from their investment in these systems. Moreover, it is believed that inculcating the culture of sharing and increasing contributions to the knowledge pool will be easier if firms adopt policies which provide social incentives rather than monetary incentives to its best employees. Investing in KM systems in itself will not ensure increased creativity and innovation but it most definitely will serve as the engine that can fuel Indian firms to move up the value chain.
From the interview
"Managing knowledge is not the same as managing data and information. There is a complicated human dimension associated with KM."
(On the definition of Knowledge Management)
"Just like automation does not ensure the success of a firm, a KM system does not ensure innovation. But a well managed KM system does act as a very good facilitator for innovation."
(On the impact of KM on innovation)
"Wipro, with the help of a user defined KM system, has been able to cut down a part of its induction training program from a period of 7 days to a period of 4-5 hours."
(On the success of KM systems in Indian firms)
"In India traditionally, we are groomed in a way that discourages imitation, and suddenly when we join an organization we are told to do just the reverse - copy from colleagues who have already solved the problem!"
(On the challenges faced in implementing a KM culture in Indian firms)
"Financial incentives are not good enough. It can excite employees for a while but beyond that, social incentives are what actually motivate employees."
(On the possible ways of promoting a KM culture amongst a firm's employees )
Sourav Mukherji is an Associate Professor in the area of Organisational Behaviour & Human Resources Management at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. An FPM from IIM Bangalore, his areas of research include Organization Design, Internationalization Strategy, Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning. He has been involved in numerous live consulting projects and has won several awards for his research and publications, including the Infosys Scholarship for Research on IT Industry (2000). He has a B.Tech degree from IIT, Kharagpur and prior to joining IIM Bangalore, he has worked for Boston Consulting Group, Oracle and IBM.