Driving Creativity: Extending Knowledge Management into the Multinational Corporation

By Gabberty, James W.; Thomas, Jennifer D. E. | Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge and Management, Annual 2007 | Go to article overview

Driving Creativity: Extending Knowledge Management into the Multinational Corporation


Gabberty, James W., Thomas, Jennifer D. E., Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge and Management


Introduction

As companies strive to achieve competitive advantage, it is imperative for firms to reflect on their historical competitive strengths that initially drove the early creativity processes that sustained their evolution and led to their expansion into overseas markets and global operation centers. By sustaining an environment that promotes the process by which product designers imagine and create new products and services, the same relentless compulsion to question, discover, and make innovations provides firms with the conditions necessary to acquire additional revenues needed to fund strategic directives. If the necessary ICT infrastructure is put into place as firms expand globally, a by-product of the operational logistic and tactical expansion functions will be the coincident enlargement of the firms' ability to innovate. To quote William Blake as cited in Durant-Law (2006), "I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare; my business is to create". This enhanced environment should allow companies to grow in the context of the cultures and regions they touch, as new ways of looking at products and services become manifest by a more diverse workforce. Hence, by putting into place an informational infrastructure that crosses knowledge boundaries, visualizes results, applies analogies and embraces failure, the same recipe that allows domestic firms to thrive and flourish will significantly enhance the likelihood of future successes for the MNC.

The paper discusses the deficiencies in the link between knowledge management, creativity and its technological underpinnings, proposes a model for integrating these designed to explore the question of how innovative idea creation is realized, developed and channeled in the MNC. Areas for future research stemming from this model and concluding comments pertinent to the consideration of these issues are also articulated.

The Weak Bonds between ICT, KM, and Creativity

Consider how difficult a task it is to pass on the values, social mores, and other firm-specific characteristics to new-comers, either to the industry or to the firm. How does one hand-off the valuable personal competency of thinking creatively? How do you train someone to brainstorm? Recognizing the intrinsic value of these capabilities and the benefit imparted to the firm by employees capable of creative thinking and knowing how to engage others is not only highly relevant but among the most sought after employee skills among MNCs (Ergazakis, Metaxiotis & Pearras, 2006; Ford & Staples, 2006).

Studies identifying the process of how companies approach the arduous task of instituting, maintaining, and improving knowledge management systems designed specifically to enhance firmwide creativity by leveraging information technology assets are sparse, and in some cases contradictory (Cairncross, 2002; Carayannis, 1999; Darroch & McNaughton, 2002; Knight & Cavusgil, 2004). Contrastingly, studies highlighting the degree to which firms are strengthening their value chain linkages in order to achieve operational efficiency are numerous (Barry & Kearney, 2006; Farrell, 2006; Hill, Marino & Chae, 2003; Kim, Cavusgil & Calantone, 2006; Kuei, Madu, Chow & Lu, 2005; Liker & Morgan, 2006). This difference in available research may be attributed, in part, to the well-documented benefits attributed to value chain improvements assessed by many academics and business practitioners. The fact that these ICT-driven benefits hold the potential of almost immediately impacting the firm through the realization of significant savings from lowered production costs, decreased wages (by way of outsourcing well-defined tasks) and by tightly coupling the inventory supply chain are some of the reasons why such rigorous ICT productivity studies exist (Klein, 2003). Moreover, technology's positive affects as an influencer in driving several of the key processes outlined in the proposed model in this paper is a further contributory factor warranting investigation. …

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