Originally published July 14, 2021

This is the 70th article in the Profiles in Knowledge series featuring thought leaders in knowledge management. Georg von Krogh is a Professor in the Department of Management, Technology, and Economics at ETH (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule) Zurich and holds the Chair of Strategic Management and Innovation. He was also the Head of ETH Zurich’s Department of Management, Technology, and Economics from 2008 to 2011. Georg specializes in competitive strategy, technological innovation, and knowledge management. He teaches courses on Entrepreneurial Leadership, Strategic Management and Innovation Theory, and Research.

I first learned of Georg’s work from a 2004 post by Denham Grey entitled 5 KM Masters: “If you were asked to name the 5 people who have most influenced your knowledge management beliefs and practices, who would they be? Here are my choices:

  1. Dave Snowden has a good grasp of KM and complexity, appreciates the role of tacit knowledge, and makes sense of the domain.
  2. Etienne Wenger is a master of Community of Practice theory. His 1998 book is a classic, providing deep and insightful reading around social learning and knowledge stewardship.
  3. Dorothy Leonard understands and practices deep smarts. She knows how to work with tacit knowledge and encourage innovation.
  4. Chris Collison exemplifies practical organizational KM. Just read Learning to Fly to find out why.
  5. Georg von Krogh has written the best books on KM, from Organizational Epistemology to Enabling Knowledge Creation. He truly articulates the central roles of community, cognition, relationships, and trust in knowledge work.”

I previously profiled the first four, and now I am completing Denham’s list.

Background

Born in Oslo, Norway, Georg von Krogh received his MSc from the Norwegian University of Technology and Natural Science, and a Ph.D. from this University’s Department of Industrial Economics and Technology Management.

Von Krogh started his academic career as Assistant Professor of Business Policy at SDA Bocconi, Bocconi University in Italy. Subsequently he was Associate Professor of Strategy at the Norwegian School of Management, and Professor of Management at the University of St.Gallen in Switzerland, and a Director of this University’s Institute of Management. He was also the President of the Research Commission at the University of St. Gallen.

He has been Visiting Professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, Hitotsubashi University in Japan, Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, and the London School of Economics and Political Science. He was the Head of the Department of Management, Technology, and Economics at ETH Zurich during 2008–2011. From 2008 to 2014 he was a board member of the European Academy of Management (EURAM).

He is also a member of the National Research Council of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF), and holds an honorary position as Research Fellow at Judge Business School, University of Cambridge.

Work

Von Krogh specializes in competitive strategy, technological innovation, and knowledge management. He has conducted research in several industries including financial services, media, computer software and hardware, life -sciences, and consumer goods. He teaches courses on Entrepreneurial Leadership, Strategic Management, and Innovation Theory and Research.

Von Krogh has consulted on strategy and trained executives for companies in Asia, Europe, and the USA. He has experience from being a board- or advisory board member of various companies and NGOs, including PricewaterhouseCoopers in Switzerland, Swiss Bank Corporation (UBS), and the SKAT Foundation. He also serves as a member of the Chapter Board at the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce. He was an academic fellow and faculty member of the World Economic Forum (2002–2007) where he was actively involved in scenario development for industries and economies.

Von Krogh serves as Editorial Board member of various journals including the Academy of Management Discoveries, Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Strategic Information Systems, European Management Review, European Management Journal, MIT Sloan Management Review, and Long Range Planning. He served as Senior Editor for Organisation Studies. His awards and recognitions include for example the Association of American Publishers’ “Best Professional Business Book Award”, Harvard Business Review’s “Breakthrough Idea,” ETH’s Teaching Award “Goldene Eule,” European Management Review’s “Best Paper Award 2012,” and Journal of Strategic Information Systems’ “Best Paper Award 2008.”

Positions

  • 2013 Research Fellow, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge
  • 2013 Visiting Scholar, Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • 2006-present Professor, Department of Management, Technology, and Economics, ETH Zurich
  • 1994–2006 Professor of Management, University of St Gallen; Director, Institute of Management and President Research Commission
  • 2000 Visiting Professor, Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • 1999 Fujitsu Visiting Professor, Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology
  • 1996 Visiting Professor, London School of Economics and Political Science
  • 1996 Visiting Professor, Hitotsubashi University
  • 1991–1994 Associate Professor of Strategy, Norwegian School of Management
  • 1990–1991 Assistant Professor of Business Policy, SDA Bocconi, Bocconi University

Education

  • 1990 PhD in Management, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
  • 1986 MSc in Engineering and Marine Technology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Memberships

  • Editorial Boards: Academy of Management Journal, MIT Sloan Management Review, Journal of Knowledge Management, European Management Journal, European Management Review, Long Range Planning, Die Betriebswirtschaft, Journal of Strategic Information Systems, and Organization Studies
  • Advisory Boards: UBS (Swiss Bank Corporation); PwC, Switzerland; GetAbstract, Switzerland; Metalayer, Switzerland and California; AIESEC Switzerland; ETH Juniors; President of Jury — ISC Wings of Excellence Award
  • Boards: Innovative Strategies, Switzerland; Unilever Knowledge Management Group (KMG), Netherlands; Skat Foundation; Heidi Foundation, Switzerland.
  • Fellow, World Economic Forum
  • Special Advisor to the World Economic Forum on “China and the World: Scenarios to 2025”
  • Member: European Academy of Management, European Group of Organization Studies; Strategic Management Society; Academy of Management

Expertise

  • Strategic Management
  • Knowledge Management
  • Innovation

Profiles

Content

Interviews

1. Open Source Development: Perspectives From Management Science by Software Engineering Radio

2. Swiss businesses are good process innovators: Interview with Georg von Krogh and Martin Wörter by Julia Wegner

3. Developing a Knowledge-Based Theory of the Firm by Claus Otto Scharmer

  • Stages of KM
  1. Capturing Knowledge
  2. Sharing and Transferring Knowledge
  3. Generating New Knowledge
  • Blind spots
  1. Sources of rent
  2. High mobility and low loyalty of human capital
  3. The task-creating company
  4. The role of leadership in the knowledge economy
  • Importance of care
  1. Care is a gift
  2. Care drives attention

4. Knowledge Board (August 2003) by Liza Wohlfart and Patricia Wolf from the IAT (Institute for Human Factors and Technology Management) at the University of Stuttgart

Q: Can you please introduce yourself ?

A: My name is Georg von Krogh and I am a professor at the University of St. Gallen — Switzerland and director at the Institute of Management.

Q: For how many years have you been dealing with KM and what are the current projects you are working on ?

A: I’ve worked on KM since 1988. The current projects that I am working on relate to the functioning of communities for the sharing of knowledge, the nature of communities and the type of characteristics that allow or hinder the free flow of information.

Q: How relevant is KM for the surviving of organizations in today’s turbulent environments?

A: I think, first, it depends on what type of industry are you looking at, because the problems the companies are facing, are very different. All industries need KM in one way or another, but the approaches you take are different. McKinsey, for example had a study on R&D; processes in the automotive industry and they found quite a particular approach to Knowledge Management different from the one you would find in the professional services. Secondly, if you talk about turbulence, I immediately translate it into risk or riskiness related to the context you are operating in. In order to manage a risky situation in a better way you need Knowledge Management tools. Knowledge Management makes you more robust, more reliable (you have more of a continuation in the activities you do) and more coherent.

Q: You have developed a kind of KM strategy concept. Could you explain this in a few words ?

A: This concept was published in an article by Manfred Aben, Ikujiro Nonaka and myself in Long Range Planning in 2001. From all the KM initiatives that I learned I found out that those companies that do seem to succeed are those that link KM to some form of tangible result, the business objectives (efficiency objectives — time saving, cost reduction and synergy, innovation objectives — increased turnover, efficient manufacturing methods). The first process that is involved in KM is the process of capturing and locating knowledge. Secondly the sharing of knowledge and information among individuals groups and organizations. Practically you are doing both at the same time because, by taking notes and discussing them, you are capturing and sharing at the same time. In the end is the process of creating knowledge, combining things, socializing your members, internalizing and externalizing knowledge.

The KM Strategy is about applying these three processes to achieve business objectives. It is actually a three by three matrix. It shows how well are you capturing knowledge experiences and how well are you sharing them. For example a company, that does parallel manufacturing in many countries, that has substantial differences in the supply chain costs, just has to share the knowledge among these locations in order to reduce the costs. But if a company is confronted with a risk that is difficult to manage, the company has to start to create knowledge and afterwards to share it throughout the company. The company shouldn’t look at what they can do in the KM area, at what opportunities does it have, but at what it wants to achieve. And then it has to choose the right methods.

Q: What do you consider to be important for developing and running a Knowledge Strategy with respect to Corporate Culture ?

A: It depends very much on the following:

  • If your company is heavily based on transfer and sharing of explicit knowledge (news agency, information service etc.), you can have norms of exchange and reciprocity and a traditional corporate culture. What you need is a good marketplace that allows information and knowledge to be exchanged fast and efficiently.
  • If your company is based on a large extent on tacit knowledge (a group of geologists hired to do an oil prospecting) you cannot rely on transactions and reciprocity, you need to foster a culture in which people share their experiences through mentoring programs. You need certain norms that are team- and helping- oriented, very disciplined and strongly related to the caring function. The level of trust among employees is very high.

Q: Are there concrete things you can do to support this culture ?

A: First you have to make sure that you employ people that share the value system of the company, then train them on their job and train them as mentors and cultures. Give them additional recognition and sometimes a higher salary and a higher status in the company. You can also do a project reflection, to find out not only what this project produced but also what did this team and the individuals learn. You can also ask yourself where these people should be working in the future, so that you can maximize learning for each individual.

Q: What competencies should employees have for a successful KM Strategy ?

A: It depends on the company and on the industry you are involved in and on what you need KM for. The knowledge workers would probably need three things:

  1. To be able to synthesize a lot of information, make decisions and act upon that information quickly (find what kind of information is qualitatively better). They also have to be IT literate, on an individual and also on a community basis.
  2. To be able to work in teams, in the sense of sharing and creating knowledge.
  3. To be able to reinvent themselves, their skills and their competencies, by personal initiative. They have to be able not only to learn new things but also to dare to go into new areas.

Q: Could you please sum up your statements in one or two sentences and say what are winning strategies for the knowledge-based economy ?

A: They are knowledge-based, they are co-operative and they are extremely agile, in the sense of adapting to new opportunities and threats and in the sense of implementing.

Learning

Videos

Books

Amazon

  1. The concepts and theories of knowledge management and networks are well documented. Yet there are few, if any, guidelines on how to implement knowledge management within an organization, especially focusing on how to manage knowledge in a network environment.
  2. Putting Knowledge Networks into Action visualizes paths that allow one to make connections between theories, concepts and concrete actions. It shows how to integrate these different roots into a holistic view on managing knowledge in networks. It develops a methodology that will help the reader move towards building and maintaining knowledge networks in his or her organization.

Table of Contents

  1. Management summary
  2. At a glance — competing through knowledge networks
  3. About this handbook
  4. Building blocks
  5. Storyboard — setting up knowledge networks
  6. Summary and action plan
  1. Weaving together lessons from such international leaders as Siemens, Unilever, Skandia, and Sony, along with their own first-hand consulting experiences, the authors introduce knowledge enabling — the overall set of organizational activities that promote knowledge creation — and demonstrate its power to transform an organization’s knowledge into value-creating actions. They describe the five key “knowledge enablers” and outline what it takes to instill a knowledge vision, manage conversations, mobilize knowledge activists, create the right context for knowledge creation, and globalize local knowledge.
  2. The authors stress that knowledge creation must be more than the exclusive purview of one individual — or designated “knowledge” officer. Indeed, it demands new roles and responsibilities for everyone in the organization — from the elite in the executive suite to the frontline workers on the shop floor. Whether an activist, a caring expert, or a corporate epistemologist who focuses on the theory of knowledge itself, everyone in an organization has a vital role to play in making “care” an integral part of the everyday experience; in supporting, nurturing, and encouraging microcommunities of innovation and fun; and in creating a shared space where knowledge is created, exchanged, and used for sustained, competitive advantage.

Table of Contents

  1. From Managing to Enabling Knowledge
  2. The Limits of Knowledge Management: Why So Many Barriers Still Exist
  3. Care in the Organization: Why an Enabling Context Matters
  4. Strategy and Knowledge Creation: Ensuring Survival in the Present and Advancement in the Future
  5. Enabler 1: Instill a Knowledge Vision
  6. Enabler 2: Manage Conversations
  7. Enabler 3: Mobilize Knowledge Activists
  8. Enabler 4: Create the Right Context
  9. Enabler 5: Globalize Local Knowledge
  10. Knowledge Enabling in Action: Dismantling Barriers at Gemini Consulting
  11. Epilogue: The Knowledge-Enabling Journey
  1. This book presents a new view of organizations which has important implications for the theory, methods and practice of management. For several years the boundaries of political science, sociology and other fields in the social sciences have been significantly rethought with the help of autopoiesis theory.
  2. The authors examine how this theory can be applied in the organization and management field, by an increased focus on knowledge and the processes of knowledge development and guidance. Intended as a standard reference for all those involved in the study of advanced organizations.

Table of Contents

  1. Foreword By Kenneth R. Slocum
  2. Devising a Concept of Organizational Knowledge
  3. Conventional Organizational Epistemologies
  4. Autopoietic Systems
  5. Organizational Knowledge, Individualized (and Socialized)
  6. Unbracketing (Socialized Organizational Knowledge) by a Theory of Scaling
  7. Organizational Knowledge and Languaging
  8. Languaging and Beyond
  9. Impediments to Organizational Knowledge
  10. Opening Up
  11. The New Epistemology in Use: The SENCORP Management Model
  12. Postscript: A Final Self-Reference

Book Chapters

  1. Table of Contents
  2. Chapters
  3. Chapter 7: Care in Knowledge Creation

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager https://sites.google.com/site/stangarfield/