Definizione di Capitale Intellettuale e Management della Conoscenza (A.Ward / Translate this Page!)

First, I would like to challenge the concept of needing to define something. I find definitions to be extremely limiting. They become permanent representations of the thing being defined and leave no room for interpretation, adaptation, or evolution over time. Instead I like to think about the distinctions of something. This is an evolving description -- a running list of the manifestations and characteristics of the thing. Distinctions allow something to take on different guises in different contexts. They allow you to accumulate a list of those manifestions and characteristics over time. They also allow you to include what something is not in addition to what it is, to set boundaries around the thing being described. They provide people with a much richer sense of meaning and understanding. In short, something moves from being a dead set of words to being alive in the mind of the receiver. Including different people's definitions of intellectual capital or knowledge in a book or article is a method of beginning to list their distinctions.


Some of the different distinctions of Intellectual Capital that I use (in addition to the ones already expressed by Tom Stewart and Leif Edvinsson in their recently published IC books - both, by the way, really were developing a list of IC distinctions at the beginning of their books, rather than classic definitions):

  • The sum of an enterprise's:
    • collective knowledge, experience, skills, competences, and ability to acquire more
    • work outcomes, services and other intangible manifestations of the application of these to the strategic intent of the enterprise
    • relationships and processes that facilitate this application, its delivery of value to the marketplace, and its delivery of strategic advantage back to the enterprise

  • An enterprise's competences; the artifacts and measurements of its intangible resources; the capabilities and interactions of its formal organizations, informal communities, customers, and partners; and the knowledge, skills, and potential of its employees and other stakeholders

  • Rather than a definition, the example I always use when I talk about IC is:
    For Microsoft, in a nutshell, IC is its intangible assets:
    • the knowledge and skill of its programmers
    • the software they write
    • the licenses through which the software is protected and made available to the marketplace
    • the share of the market held by that software all resulting in making Bill Gates the richest person in the country and Microsoft one of its most successful companies

  • Intangible material and relationships that have been or could be formalized, captured, and leveraged to produce a higher-valued asset

  • the difference between book value and market value

  • what investors really should care about, but have never had access to

  • What IC is not is what is shown on the balance sheet and other financial statements

  • What IC is not is what an enterprise understands and manages as its most valuable asset


Some of the different distinctions of Knowledge that I use:

  • accumulated experience and learning:
    • what, why, how, who, where, when, how much
    • formal education and lessons from just everyday living and working
    • facts, stories, images
    • documented, spoken, tacit
    • conscious, unconscious

  • a simple way to think about the difference between data, information, and knowledge is that as you move through the data to knowledge continuum the material takes on increasing levels of meaning and the perceiver gains increasing levels of understanding

  • Another way to look at this distinction:
    I like to use the metaphor of the brain to help understand knowledge and intelligence. Put simply, my conception is that the brain is billions of neurons which store data. What gives us knowledge is the links between them, as well as the access paths we have created which allow us to follow the links. Together these let us make sense of the data stored in all of those cells. We achieve intelligence when we become aware that all of these cells in our brain and our body are collectively one living being capable of reasoning, feeling, and connecting to and impacting other beings and the environment in which we live.

    Organizational knowledge and intelligence are much the same. When we just have a bunch of data and information scattered in different sources -- databases, documents, e-mail messages, conversations, people's heads -- little meaning is provided to the organization or its individual stakeholders. It is only when we begin to link these through technological and sociological connections, to provide access through these links in meaningful ways that the organization gains knowledge. And it is only when the separate entities are linked and aware that they are connected and interdependent, that the organization gains intelligence -- a deep sense of being "one", of being whole. Of course, the existence of this knowledge or intelligence doesn't add value to the enterprise by itself. Only when the knowledge and intelligence is applied to the purpose of the enterprise and its customers does it become a valued asset -- intellectual capital.

  • organizational knowledge takes many forms; internally it can be knowledge of (just a sample):
    • culture, history
    • strategic direction
    • organizations, partnerships, and other formal relationships
    • communities of practice, communities of interest, networks, and other informal relationships
    • individual people
    • processes
    • products, services
    • systems, tools
    • patents, technologies
    • written and unwritten rules
    • where these are located; how to find or access them
    • how to use or apply them -- how to get things done
    • how to succeed around here
    • who do or could we know or work with

    externally, it can be knowledge of (just a sample):

    • customers, markets, and their needs, wants, and activities in the marketplace --existing and potential
    • competitors and our position relative to them -- near term & strategically, overall and in specific markets and situations
    • laws and regulations impacting the enterprise now or in the future
    • emerging technologies and other trends of possible significance to the enterprise
    • suppliers, partners -- existing and potential
    • investment market, sources of capital
    • other parts of the extended enterprise -- owner, sister business units or companies in a larger corporation or holding company, subsidiaries
    • global -- countries, cultures, climates - political and geographical, economics, global locations of the enterprise operations and markets

    most knowledge remains in people's heads and never gets formalized, documented, and shared; in addition to knowledge about the above, there is much knowledge they carry we rarely try to find out about or leverage for the purpose of the enterprise, for example:

    • languanges spoken and cultures/customs understood
    • outside interests such as hobbies that could be tapped by the enterprise
    • who do they know in the outside world where we could potentially benefit from the relationship
    • professional affiliations
    • adult education, workshops, conferences and other non-work related learning
    • knowledge acquired in previous jobs that isn't being utilized
    • all of the thousands of ideas and suggestions that everybody thinks about, but rarely get heard or acted upon

  • What knowledge is not is most of the stuff companies and information systems functions have been paying all of their attention to for decades and investing all of their billions of dollars in with little or no return