Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Building a Knowledge Community at Hallmark Cards

Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Building a Knowledge Community at Hallmark Cards

Article excerpt

By connecting to the marketplace to produce a rich dialogue of perspectives and experiences, the company expects to foster additional sources of innovative ideas.

OVERVIEW: As companies look for ways to grow their business, the application of all the intellectual capital from both inside and outside the organization will play an ever increasing role. Technology is providing unparalleled opportunities for connecting the various constituencies that have a stake in the success of the enterprise, both inside and outside of the formal organization. Forming knowledge communities devoted to growing the business by sharing innovative ideas, and building on the ideas of others, is one way to bring to bear all the idea-generating capacities of the organization in the pursuit of innovative growth. It is a way that Hallmark is pursuing.

Every company is looking for ways to grow. Mergers and acquisitions are popular ways of growing the top line, and managing costs has always been an element in growing the bottom line. Ultimately, however, both measures must make room for more imaginative and inventive ways to create value for consumers. Many believe that ideas are the new capital of growth.

But, if ideas are the new capital of growth, then where are the ideas going to come from? Where are the ideas for growth in your business? The fact is, ideas are everywhere in virtually all organizations. To paraphrase Fox Mulder, of The X-Files, "The ideas are out there." The intent of this article is to relate our experience at Hallmark in reaching out, capturing and then capitalizing on those ideas.

The Nature of Knowledge

It is worth spending a moment to consider the nature of knowledge. Without boring the reader with a philosophical discussion about knowledge, or epistemology, a couple of points seem in order. Drawing on the work of Denham Grey (1) it is useful to think about knowledge the way that we understand light. Just as light can manifest itself both as a wave and a particle, knowledge can be considered from both the "objective" and "process" perspectives. Table 1 illustrates some of the implications of each perspective.

Table 1.--Knowledge Perspectives

                        "Object" Perspective    "Process" Perspective

Knowledge is ...      a tangible thing         constructed socially
It is ...             captured, stored,        through dialog
It's Value            accessed                 collaborative,
 Added is ...         as intellectual          dynamic as a means
Learning is           property                 to problem-solving
 facilitated by ...   giving people access     conversations,
Focus is ...          technology               networks of
                                               connections culture

Adapted from Denham Grey, Knowledge Ecology Network (1).

The issue is not that one of these perspectives is wrong and the other right. Both are important. The issue is that the perspectives will lead you in different directions in attempting to make use of and improve knowledge sharing. However, the "process" perspective is the one that has shaped our thinking on knowledge sharing, community building, and learning efforts. Our goal has been to try and create a dialogue and connectivity to foster the collaboration and community sufficient to enable knowledge to be collected and used to help drive business growth.

The Time Dimension

There is another useful distinction to make with regard to knowledge creation and sharing, and that is the time dimension (see Table 2). When we looked at the vast repositories of data and information that we had available to us at Hallmark, we were overwhelmed with the necessity to try to make sense of it all. Our question was, "So what do we know?" All of the research we had conducted and all of the data we had collected was all in the past. Studying it was like looking in the rear-view mirror. …

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