Originally published November 7, 2021

This is the 74th article in the Profiles in Knowledge series featuring thought leaders in knowledge management. Vincent Ribière is the Managing Director of the Institute for Knowledge and Innovation Southeast Asia (IKI-SEA) hosted by Bangkok University. His current research interests are in the fields of knowledge management, innovation management, and their overlap, as well as topics related to individual, team, and computational creativity driven by artificial intelligence. He received the KM Leadership Award at the Global Knowledge Management Congress in June, 2014.

Background

Vincent is an Associate Professor at Bangkok University‘s Graduate/Business School, where he teaches a variety of management topics, including: Knowledge Management, Managing for Creativity, Innovation Management, Design Thinking, Innovation and Organizational Development, and Research Design and Methodology. He is the cofounder and the Program Director of the PhD program in Knowledge and Innovation Management (KIM) and the Founder and Co-Program Director of the Master in Business Innovation (MBI).

Vincent is a co-organizer of the Organizational Knowledge Sharing (OKS) Certificate Programs offered in partnership with the World Bank. He is also the organizer of the Thailand and Southeast Asia Most Innovative Knowledge Enterprise Award (MIKE Award)

Vincent is the founder of the iklub (the Innovation and Knowledge Management Club) in Thailand and the founder and organizer of Creative Bangkok Week. He speaks about KM, innovation, and creativity at conferences including ISPIM, KM Asia, KM Australia, KM Singapore, KMAP, KM Iran, Global KM Congress, KM Middle East, and KM Russia.

His previous academic posts were at New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) in New York, American University in Washington, DC, and the NYIT campus in the Kingdom of Bahrain, where he was chairman of the School of Management.

Vincent has cofounded international events in the fields of Business Creativity and Innovation (Creative Bangkok, ASCIM, CreativeMornings Bangkok, G-LINK) and he cofounded various communities of KM and innovation academics and practitioners nationally (iKlub, Thailand KM Network — TKMN) and Internationally (KM Global Network). Vincent is an Editorial Advisory Board Member of the Journal of Knowledge Management and an International Editorial Review Board Member of the International Journal of Knowledge Management.

Autobiography

I was born June 20, 1971 in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France near Marseilles. I grew up there until six and then moved to a little city in Provence called Manosque (50Km north of Aix en Provence). I went to school in Manosque until sixteen while I learned to play saxophone and practiced Aikido. Then, I went to the technology high school of Digne les Bains. There, I prepared my Baccalaureate with an emphasis on Mathematics, Physics and Technology. After failing my Baccalaureate I decided to present a more Scientific Baccalaureate and I went back to high school in Manosque. I finally passed my Baccalaureate, and I went for two years to a school in Arles (ISAII/IRA). From this school I got a degree in Industrial Computer Science and Automation.

I then attended Polytech Marseille (former IUSPIM), specializing in manufacturing industrial engineering and computer and automated systems. After graduating from engineering school, I passed my first master’s degree in computer science. I then had to complete my military service. Selected as a scientist, I was assigned for a year to a company named Savimex located at Grasse on the French Riviera close to Cannes! Savimex was a subcontractor of the French DoD. I worked there on improving the quality of products and on optimizing the production lines.

At the same time, I applied for the Lavoisier research grant sponsored by the French State Department. I got selected and was awarded a grant to conduct research at American University in the Computer Science and Information Systems department (CSIS). In January, 1997 I arrive in Washington, DC. Can you believe that at this time I had never browsed the web? After six months of research, I was asked to teach the class “Creativity and Computers” as an adjunct professor. During this period, I created my first basic web page and one year later created a more advanced and entertaining one! Later I passed a second master’s degree and obtained my Doctor of Science from the George Washington University (GWU). I left American University in Fall 2004 (after teaching there for seven years) and I joined the Management School of the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT). I taught courses related to information systems and their management as well as courses on knowledge management.

In July 2005 I defended my second PhD at the Paul Cezanne University, School of Applied Economy, Aix-en-Provence, France. In 2006 I spent the year in the Kingdom of Bahrain (Middle East) in one of the global campuses of NYIT. I taught there and was also in charge of the Management School. I left NYIT in 2007 to join the Graduate School of Bangkok University (Thailand) where I founded the Institute for Knowledge and Innovation Southeast Asia (IKI-SEA). In 2011, I founded the PhD Program in Knowledge and Innovation Management (Ph.D. KIM) at Bangkok University, and a novel degree, “Master in Business Innovation (MBI),” the MBA of the 21st century! I have lived in Thailand since 2007, and it is now my second home, where I live happily with my wife Laddawan and my daughter Emilie.

Education

  • Université Paul Cézanne — PhD, Management Sciences, 2001–2005
  • The George Washington University — DSc, Knowledge Management, 1999–2001
  • Université Paul Cézanne — Master’s degree in Banking and Finance — 1999
  • Polytech Marseille
  1. Master’s degree in Computer Science, 1995
  2. Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering, 1992–1995

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KnowledgeBoard KM Expert Interview — April 8, 2003

This expert interview has been conducted as part of this month’s theme “KM Disasters and KM Victories”. Vincent Ribière discusses the issue of assessment and measurement of KM initiatives.

European KM Forum: Vincent, I am very glad that you had time for an interview. You have made a large study with 88 companies in the US. This can give us an interesting insight into how KM initiatives are assessed in America. Before we go into this, can you please introduce yourself shortly?

Vincent Ribière: First of all thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to present my research in this very dynamic KM forum. I obtained my PhD in KM in 2001 at the George Washington University in Washington DC (at the time, it was one of the first PhD program offered in KM) under the supervision of Dr. Michael Stankosky. I currently teach at American University and I pursue my research on the role of organizational culture in KM initiative successes. I am doing some consulting in the same area and I am an active member of the Institute for KM at the George Washington University as well as with different KM associations in France.

European KM Forum: Your study aimed to assess the success of KM initiatives as a function of organizational culture. So how did you measure KM success? Which metrics did you use?

Vincent Ribière: I think that KM success assessment is currently one of the main aspects of KM that still raises concerns. It is well known that if you can not measure something it is very difficult to manage it. My research was conducted through the use of an online questionnaire. I assessed KM initiatives’ successes based on two sets of questions. The first group of four questions was based on Successful Knowledge Management Projects published in the MIT Sloan Management Review Winter 1998 by Thomas Davenport, David De Long, and Michael Beers. I asked respondents to assess their level of agreement with the four following metrics:

  1. I have noticed a significant growth in the volume of knowledge available since the KM initiative has been launched (number of documents available).
  2. I have noticed a significant growth in the usage of knowledge available since the KM initiative has been launched (accesses to repositories and number of participants for discussion-oriented projects).
  3. I believe that the project would survive without the support of a particular individual or two.
  4. I believe that resources (e.g., people, money) attached to KM initiatives are going to grow?

For the second group of questions I listed fifteen common benefits of using KM and I asked respondents to tell me for each benefit item if it was expected in their company as a result of the KM initiative and if so, to what degree it was achieved.

Based on the answer to these questions I calculated a success level score for each company. These are generic and global indicators of success, more specific indicators could have been used if this research had not been conducted through surveys but by visiting organizations with direct access to information.

European KM Forum: Have you been able in any way to calculate the Return on Investment (ROI) for a KM initiative. Or are the companies doing this? What is the typical approach that the US companies are using for measuring success? How important is shareholder value in this?

Vincent Ribière: No I didn’t use quantitative metrics for this past research it was mainly qualitative metrics based on perception (which can be subject to various biases (e.g., managerial bias)). So it was not my intend in this study to calculate the ROI of participating companies. I think that most of the companies that launch a KM initiative don’t start by an enterprise wide approach. They first try to build evidence on a pilot project. Such well delimited KM project must have clear metrics in order to assess its level of success. This will help organizations to make a decision to deploy a KM initiative at a larger scale or not. Depending on the type of project different metrics can be used. Do all companies make a ROI study before launching a KM initiative? I will say that most of them do but sometimes favorable opportunities or strong leadership involvement are sufficient to get the initiative started.

European KM Forum: And how important is employee value, knowledge worker satisfaction, etc.? Is this also a measure of success?

Vincent Ribière: I think that if employees/knowledge workers are no satisfied by the KM system/practices in place in their organization they will only partially use it or will not use it at all. If their satisfaction is low they will not be likely to get involved in knowledge sharing activities. To answer to your question, yes I think that knowledge worker satisfaction can be used as a success factor. Knowledge worker satisfaction also directly impacts the innovation process which can be considered as another success factor.

European KM Forum: The second part of your work is the assessment of the organizational culture. How did you define this? What is part of the organizational culture?

Vincent Ribière: Organizational culture can be simply defined as the character/identity of an organization. It is how things are done in an organization. At its superficial level, the culture is reflected by artefacts that can be noticed just by visiting a company (e.g., office spaces, how people are dressed up, jargon used, etc.). But if we really want to understand a culture we need to investigate the history of the company, beliefs and values shared among employees, etc. These are the real core elements that shape the culture. Culture guides day-to-day working relationships and determines how people communicate within the organization, what behavior is acceptable or not and how power and status are allocated.

European KM Forum: And how to assess that? How can I find out the culture of my organization? Or how can I tell my boss about the status of our culture — with good reason?

Vincent Ribière: There are different schools of thoughts on how to assess organizational culture. The first one defends that organizational culture can be assessed through the use of questionnaires. Many of them have been developed during the past twenty years. Some of them will provide you an overall picture of your culture type is using terminologies like Strong versus Weak culture or Adaptive versus Rigid, etc., and other ones will focus on a particular dimension of the culture (e.g., trust, sociability). The second school of thoughts is that organizational culture can not be measured through the use of questionnaires but only through a process of understanding the organization, its history and through interviews and observation of people behaviors, beliefs and values.

For my study, I first looked at what were the two most important cultural values that facilitate knowledge sharing. Based on a large literature review and based on previous research I decided to use the level of trust and the level of solidarity in an organization. I was able to measure such dimensions through two validated questionnaire tools developed by Guy DeFuria (trust) and Rob Goffee & Gareth Jones (G&J) (solidarity). Based on the level of trust and solidarity (low or high) I used a matrix representing four culture types. This matrix is an adaptation of the one developed by G&J but in my representation, I replaced the sociability dimension by trust.

The four resulting culture types are Fragmented (“All together alone”), Mercenary (“Get to work on Sunday”, Networked (“Between friends”), and Communal (“We are family”). These labels were used in the G&J model.

European KM Forum: The third part of your work is about different KM initiatives for different cultures. Which are the basic types of initiatives that you see? And how to select the right one for an organization?

Vincent Ribière: KM initiatives/strategies can be categorized by two main approaches:

  • Codification: is intended to collect, codify and disseminate knowledge. It relies heavily on IT. One of the benefits of the codification approach is the reuse of knowledge. It is a people-to-documents approach.
  • Personalization: The personalization approach focuses on developing networks for linking people so that tacit knowledge can be shared. It invests moderately in IT. It is a person to person approach.

We cannot say that one strategy is better than the other; it really depends on the type of business and on the culture of the organization. Organizational culture being a critical success factor in KM initiatives, if a company wants to succeed in its KM approach it has two options:

  • Try to change its culture (if the current one is not compatible). Changing the culture of a company is a long, difficult and risky task, but it is feasible.
  • Try to build its KM strategy around its culture.

I based my research hypothesis on the latest case. I believe that choosing the most appropriate KM approach to the current culture and getting people to accept and start using/participating in a KM system might be a way to evolve the culture over time. I have been trying to demonstrate in this study that companies having a certain culture type (and don’t want to revolutionize it) are more likely to succeed if they choose to primarily focus their KM efforts on one of the two strategies presented above.

Based on my preliminary research I found that companies that have a Fragmented (low solidarity, low trust) culture might encounter some difficulties succeeding in a KM initiative whatever strategy they pursue. Companies having a Mercenary (high solidarity, low trust) culture type are more likely to succeed if they adopt a KM strategy mainly focusing on codification. Companies that have a Networked (low solidarity, high trust) culture might benefit the most from focusing their KM efforts on a Personalization approach. Finally, organizations having a Communal (high trust, high solidarity) culture might succeed pursuing both KM strategies. Like I mentioned before these results are preliminary and must be followed with precautions. If some of you want to have an idea of what your organizational culture is you can download my free online survey that provides a diagnostic of your culture and of your current KM strategy focus.

European KM Forum: And now between you and me: what did you find at the companies — were there more successes or more disasters?

Vincent Ribière: Thirty percent of the companies that participated in my survey obtained a low success score. The lack of short-term success doesn’t automatically imply a failure. Most of the companies were at an early stage (less than 2 years) of their KM initiative when the survey was administered. Some benefits of KM can appear right away but some of them might be medium to long term benefits. I think that we need to be careful on how we measure KM success, if KM is part of the organization strategy general metrics must be applied in order to assess the benefits of KM. Just basing assessment on individual performance (amount of knowledge shared and used) might not be an appropriate assessment method and could result in dissatisfied knowledge workers that may also negatively impact their behavior regarding their participation in the KM initiative.

What I can say is that organizations that based their KM initiative just on IT and ignored or didn’t give much importance to the human aspect of KM didn’t get the ROI that they expected and their KM initiative or I should say their IT initiative had a low return.

European KM Forum: So this is about today — and what about tomorrow? What are the current trends in the US? Where is KM going at the moment? Intellectual capital in financial reports? Workforce happiness in company reports?

Vincent Ribière: In this difficult period I will say that launching new KM initiatives is unfortunately not at the top priority of most corporate companies. Nevertheless, for the US government this is currently one of their top priorities. The US government realized that approximately 71% of federal senior executives will be eligible to retire by 2005 and unless the knowledge of those leaving is retained, service to citizens are likely suffer. The US electronic-Government (e-Gov ) initiative also forces government agencies to rethink their collaboration and IT strategies to adopt a knowledge approach with a focus on the critical human component.

There is another new element that I think is important to mention and that reinforces the importance that KM is taking. The Baldrige National Quality Program which promotes and recognizes organizational performance excellence added in its 2003 criteria list the KM component. This means that companies which apply for this notorious award will have to demonstrate how the KM initiatives they have in place helps them to perform better. I think that is something to closely follow up on (see more information).

European KM Forum: Vincent, thanks a lot for having talked to us. This gave an interesting insight into the situation in America. See you again on KnowledgeBoard.

Vincent Ribière: Well, it was really my pleasure.

Presentations

  1. Closing Panel Discussion: What Role will KM Play in Driving Economic Growth in Asia and Shaping the Continent’s Governments and Businesses in the Future?
  2. How to Elicit the Knowledge of Your Experts
  3. The World Bank Organizational Knowledge Sharing (OKS) Framework: A systematic approach to strengthening organizational knowledge sharing

Podcast

Videos

Book Chapters

  1. Chapter 3: The Critical Role of Culture in Knowledge Management with Aleša Saša Sitar
  2. Chapter 12: Knowledge Management Technologies with Aurilla Aurélie Bechina Arntzen
  3. Chapter 16: Evaluation of Knowledge Management Practices in U.S. Federal Agencies with Elsa Rhoads

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

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