|Enterprise culture in knowledge society|
Karamjit S Gill D.Phil
Postgraduate Medical School, University of Brighton
Enterprise culture in knowledge society
For presentation at the
The Future 500 China 2004 Conference
Karamjit S Gill D.Phil
Postgraduate Medical School, University of Brighton
The notion of enterprise culture in the knowledge society is presented from a human-centred perspective in this paper. In this perspective, the knowledge society is seen in terms of the interdependence between the tacit dimension of knowledge (local level) and objective knowledge (global level) on the one hand, and the interconnectedness of the human-centred systems (soft technology) and techno-centric systems (hard technology) on the other hand. The human-centred vision of enterprise culture seeks to build growth and renewal oriented organisational platforms, which treats people as creators of innovation and shapers of history, rather than seeing them as appendages of machines. A creative enterprise is about creating future-oriented shared visioning and the strategy-creation process, reflecting the shared vision and strategy of the management and the individuals on the front line, as well as the broader vision of society. At the core of this future-oriented vision is the belief in building enterprises with purpose, cultivating a symbiotic (Yin-Yang) process in terms of the balance between knowledge, technology, economy and society, thereby transforming the traditional corporate cultural focus from quantitative change to qualitative change. The discussion draws upon the reflective stories of two global companies, Infosys rooted in the Indian cultural tradition and Nokia situated in the Finish cultural tradition.
In the ever evolving knowledge society, if we compare the size, weight and performance specification of a modern mobile phone with that of its portable "breeze-block" predecessor of twenty years ago, then consider the deluge of models in the intervening years, we get some sense of the rate and nature of technological change in that sector (Cooley, Re-Joyceing Engineers, forthcoming, AI & society)
In this "here today and gone tomorrow" world, many products and processes are becoming obsolete even as they are being designed and developed. Organisations have to run very fast merely to stand still.
Some hope to cope by comporting themselves as organisations of continuous innovation. They are attempting to stimulate the creativity and imagination of their staff to think outside the confines of their reductionist, and usually over structured education. These matters are already polarising perceptions of the future and sides are being taken(形成了边界或感觉不到边？). Cooley (1987) asserts that one of society's most precious assets is the skill, ingenuity, imagination and creativity of its people. One can look in wonder at the extraordinary abilities of humans and create a symbiotic relationship in which systems and science support human attributes and emphasise what humans can and could do. In contrast, the liability view emphasises the limitations of human beings and tends to the conclusion that they will find it increasingly difficult to cope and should be gradually replaced by smart devices.
This human-centred vision of knowledge society seeks building of knowledge based platforms, which bring together in a symbiotic relationship the technical capacity of technological resources and creative and innovative capabilities of the shared social and cultural knowledge resource This symbiotic view accepts that the very concept of shared knowledge resource assumes the existence of diversity and associated notions of human creativity, judgment, and ingenuity that form part of the tacit dimension of the knowledge space. In taking this view of the shared knowledge space, we avoid falling into the technological trap of eliminating the diversity of the tacit knowledge sources at the local level, and building enterprises only upon the objective knowledge, which may represent the minimum common denominator at the global level. The limitation of this focus on the common denominator is that it leads to creating a corporate culture, eliminating the very diversity that nourishes creativity and innovation at the individual and the collective levels of the organisation. The implication is that the tacit dimension of knowledge (soft technology) as the local and national resource in this case may be treated as a risk rather than as an asset.
Emerging enterprises should learn from the successful local-global technological innovation platform of Infosys, that in the uncertain global market, the danger is that an enterprise embedded just in the global technological platforms may in the short term benefit form its integration into the globalised
The challenge here is to transcend the idea of the hard technology-oriented vision of enterprise building, and focus on the creation of an enterprise culture which is nurtured by the symbiotic inter-relationships between tacit dimension of knowledge (soft technology) at the local level and the objective knowledge (hard technology) at the global level (Gill, 2002).
Jin Zhouying (2002) provides a way forward to shape this local-global collaboration, by creating the Yin-Yang (symbiotic) relationship between the diversity of the common socio-economic and cultural space. She sees Yin-Yang process in terms of the balance between knowledge, technology, economy and society, and argues that it is this balance that transforms quantitative change to qualitative change. While technology is the medium for knowledge transfer, it is the cultural diversity that facilitates its further transfer into a qualitative resource for creative and innovative applications. It may be that the strategic richness of role of local (indigenous) dimension is not visible to the deterministic mind, but it exists in the living form of the tacit knowledge. Rather than being seen as a constraint, it can be shaped as a driving force for building sustainable enterprises by constraining the move towards hard technology-centred development. The tacit dimension reflects the human dimension and is thus essential for the process of creation, innovation, enterprise, and integration of human’s capability– the core elements of the symbiosis. Zhouying emphasises that the errors and defects arising form the technological solutions of complex social and economic problems cannot be solved through technology itself. The purposeful solutions lie in the balances and coordination of the various factors of the human dimension. These can be achieved by creating a ‘yin-yang’ environment, which seeks a balance between hard technology (machine-centred) and soft technology (human-centred).
In this yin-yang’ environment, we are seeking to design a ‘machine with purpose’ in the sense of creating a symbiotic relationship between the human and the machine. Symbiosis is central to the discussion on building sustainable communities of interaction and communication. However, for this idea of the symbiosis (Cooley 1987, Gill 1996) to take shape we need to question the underlying assumptions of science and technology (Rosenbrock 1990). We need to be aware of the danger of the two notions of scientific rationality– the notion of the ‘one best way’, and the notion of the convergence theory. There is a danger that in following the logic of convergence, we may be tempted to treat diverse and disparate situations with mathematical precision, and make them converge into a universal entity in the tradition of the one best way. This may lead us to seeing diversity and the idea of the alternative as hindrance rather than an asset to local-global cohesion and interdependent development. We seek insight into some of these issues through two exemplars of global corporations, firstly an Indian global company Infosys, and secondly the Finish global company Nokia. Although situated in different social and cultural regions, they illustrate a common commitment to a harmonious interfacing between global reality and the local actuality.
2. Exploring the idea of an entrepreneurial enterprise
In their book, Disclosing New Worlds, Spinosa et al (1997) provide ‘Disclosive Space’ as a useful vehicle to explore the notion of an entrepreneurial enterprise in the knowledge society. In this disclosing world we can regard an enterprise situated in the local socio-economic contexts while being an active players in the global world. The notion of entrepreneurship focuses on being able to make sense and hold on to disharmonies in one’s current disclosive activity; and to be able to change one’s disclosive space on the basis of the disharmonious practices (p.22). The opening up of a disclosive (cultural world) space is about making sense of the world by coordinating actions, by determining how things and people matter and by observing and participating in what is transferred from situation to situation. They describe three ways of changing one's disclosive space in response to disharmony in one's practices:
By articulating entrepreneurship as the skill of cultural innovation, they note the limitations of the Cartesian model (Drucker model) to deal with the disharmony in the entrepreneurial space, and put forward a model, for simplicity we call here as the Flores et al Model. To them at the heart of innovative entrepreneurship is the achieving of the concrete vision itself.
The essence of the Cartesian model (Drucker model) is described as:
Disciplined search for symptoms of change and opportunity, leading to diagnosis and cure
The limits of such a stable and regular procedures of innovation is that it fails to recognise that when human beings produce change, they change themselves as well. The failure of Drucker model is its failure to see that innovator needs a very concrete vision of the new invention before acquiring new knowledge.
In contrast, Flores Model emphasises the achieving of the concrete vision itself:
Opens a new space for human action
In this model, the entrepreneur learns to cultivate skills of sensitivity, recognises historical change, and becomes sensitive to problem, its roots in living, cultural, working worlds. Here the notion of entrepreneurship can be articulated in terms of three overlapping concepts:
In this conceptual framework, the enterprise is seen as a new vision of work as opposed to traditional notion of work - i.e. performing tasks; coordinating human activities; and building coordinating relations.
The entrepreneurial enterprise is about discovering gaps of misunderstandings, and developing enterprise to produce products, services or business practices to fill the gaps. The enterprise culture is about the management style, and keeping enterprise culture in tune with products. The entrepreneurial skill is about:
ability to link innovation with managing the enterprise
Here conversation becomes a central activity of innovation, and opening up conversations lead to opening up new possibilities for creating new enterprise cultures.
3. Infosys: the epicentre of India’s technological dreams
Amidst the Indian City of Banglore, we find “Infosys” representing the epicentre of India’s technological dreams. The ‘Infosys City’, known as the “The Kingdom Of Geeks” is spread over 50-acre can seat 6,500 people in its 1.3 million sq ft of constructed space, has nearly 14 km of power cabling, 22 km of optical fibre and jelly-filled cabling and, among other things, three ATMs, the largest video wall in Asia and an ice-cream stall that serves 20 different flavours. It is possibly the largest campus for any software services company anywhere in the world. (Outlook, Infosys story, January 2004, New Delhi, India)
The article asks, “How on earth do they do it? And keep doing it, come what may? Is there some divine touch to the Infosys way of life?” It narrates that as you enter Infosys City and the first thing that strikes you is the unconditional trust that every employee—from the receptionist to the management trainee to the mid-level manager—has in top management. Everyone believes what the top management says. And everyone is suffused with a quiet pride in the organisation and its achievements. “We know that top managers don’t lie to us,” says G.S. Sembi, project manager, Infosys.
This trust is neither instinctive nor impulsive. It’s been built through personal anecdotes and spread through word of mouth. The Infosys, it says, has always been run by its founders with a fanatical belief in doing things right: we shall not bribe, we shall pay our taxes, we shall share our wealth with all our employees. And this value system has percolated down the hierarchy, since the founders have visibly lived by their principles. This principled belief is illustrated by its commitment to its workforce. For example, in the midst of all the bloodbath in the IT sector, Infosys firmly announced that it would not sack anyone. In 2001, Infosys’ “bench” grew to several thousand engineers but the company didn’t budge. Whereas during the dotcom meltdown (April 2000), many working in the US IT companies would see people being sacked every day, being handed pink slips and asked to leave the same evening, Infosys would bring back its employees from the USA to Banglore, and they continued working for Infosys. This happened even though telecom was the worst hit sector, where IT spends were drastically slashed and getting new business was virtually impossible.
The article points out that this intrinsic faith has been “been built over a track record that spans 21 years. We have always meant what we have said.” It further adds that the top management was clear during the crisis that “we have invested in extremely talented people. They were our assets and we had to keep these folks”. K. Dinesh, director and one of Infosys’s original founders, reveals that the firm followed Murthy’s motto, that “it was a company by the people, for the people and of the people”. In some way, the value system ingrained in everything Infosys does seems a mixture of the inspirational Murthy’s early leftist beliefs and a deep-rooted Indian business tradition where workers are treated as a part of a family.
An offshoot of this construct is an all-out attempt to make the working environment an enriching one. Infosys was one of the first Indian companies to have gymnasiums and basketball courts in its offices. Today, in addition, Infosys City has a swimming pool, sauna, z acuzzi, putting range, jogging track and two tennis courts! Now add to this leftist + “staff as family” + “work is fun” and blend a dash of strong middle-class values. The founders, each of whom is today worth millions, lead normal middle-class lives, queue up at the food courts with management trainees for breakfast and lunch, remain accessible to the lowliest employee.
Whilst keeping its core values, Infosys has evolved its own management recipe which focuses on management techniques obsessed with performance evaluation. It converted IT slowdown crisis into an opportunity. “During the boom times, our focus was on scalability, how to ramp up operations in view of an ever-growing business. Suddenly, we had to change our mental model. We had to deal with competition, streamline cost structures and look at efficiencies.” It was a realisation that value in this business has to be created every single day, that raking in exponentially-growing profits was not Infosys’ birthright.
This awareness forced Infosys to develop clockwork type management systems which help the organisation and aid the bigger cause. The meticulous planning has brutally excised any possibility of nasty surprises and created the comfort of total predictability. And no Infoscion whines about it, or gets worked up about it. The Outlook articles poses the question “was Infosys creating software robots, whose job was to do the same work better and better, in a hi-tech environment?” The Infosys articulation of the “micro-specialisation” that “whether you did dazzling, innovative work or dull, monotonous coding depended entirely on one’s personal skills. In this churn, many would have to give up their personalities as Infosys’ needs were overriding. After all, good times or bad, the company has to keep travelling up the majestic trajectory it has set for itself. And if it managed to stay on that course, it would take care of every problem that you could ever face. You don’t even have to ask.”
Like many creative enterprises, In Infosys would like us to take note of its commitment to people who work for Infosys, when it says, We would like to describe our people and our work place in simple terms. But it isn’t easy when what we are trying to describe is a certain feeling of joie de vivre; a feeling of energy and vitality, of freshness, of a place where people are unafraid to voice new ideas, of a place where there is minimal hierarchy.
Infoscions are a friendly bunch with a driving ambition to be the best in whatever they do. They are highly motivated with a zest for life that is reflected in all they do. Most of all, they make Infosys a fun place to work for themselves and for their colleagues. People management practices to create this environment, distinguish them among other technology companies, enabling Infoscions to excel and innovate in what they do for their clients and in what they stand for as a company (http://www.infosys.com/).
Infosys points out that the key to employee involvement in organizations is the sharing of information about business performance, plans, goals, and strategies. What happens by a shout across the corridor in a smaller organization, calls for a more systematic process in a large organization like Infosys. InSync is our internal communication program focused on keeping the Infoscion abreast of latest corporate and business developments, and equipping him or her to be a “brand ambassador” for the company. This program combines a communication portal with workshops, monthly newsletters, articles, daily cartoons and brainteasers to synchronize each Infoscion with the organization. “We believe in an organization with less hierarchy, and faster decision-making. In order to make that happen, every Infoscion needs to know how the organization works, how decision are made, and what drives us. So it is important for us to communicate this to everyone” (S. Gopalakrishnan, Co-founder & Member of Board of Infosys)
3.1 How does Infosys do it?
Corporate Culture: Infosys does seem a mixture of the inspirational Murthy’s early leftist beliefs and a deep-rooted Indian business tradition where workers are treated as a part of a family.
People as the most valuable asset: “it is a company by the people, for the people and of the people”.
Innovation Driver: Infosys argues that innovation with speed and imagination is emphasized in whatever it does – for its clients, employees, investors, and for the society at large. How Infosys manages its business continues to draw laurels not just for visionary leadership and management in the IT and professional services industry, but also across industries and geographies.
Accessibility: The founders, each worth millions, queue up at food counters with trainees and remain accessible to the lowliest.
Working environment. An enriching one. Infosys was one of the first Indian companies to have gymnasiums and basketball courts in its offices. Today, in addition, Infosys City has a swimming pool, sauna, Jacuzzi, putting range, jogging track and two tennis courts!
4. Organisational Renewal and Growth: the case of Nokia
As the world leader in mobile communications, Nokia is dedicated to enhancing people’s lives and productivity. This is achieved through the creation of innovative and easy-to-use products like mobile phones and solutions for media, imaging, games, mobile network operators and businesses (http://www.nokia.com). Its business is characterised by rapid growth and turbulence. Since mid 1990s, Nokia has been concerned with creation and further leveraging of a leading global position in mobile communications by means of the conscious exploitation of new knowledge based ways to operate and grow. Kulki and Kosonen (2001) provide an insight into the evolution of Nokia as a knowledge-based global company. They describe the evolving history making of Nokia as follows:
Phase 1: (1970s &1980): During this phase Nokia Learnt to create new technology at the interface, and creating opportunities to innovate with the market. The core component of the knowledge-based structure of the company is seen in terms of the actionable knowledge of the individual, subject to being continuously challenged and shaped by its customers.
Phase 3: (beginning of 1990s)- This phase laid the foundation of a knowledge-based renewal and growth strategy. It set it sight to establishing a corporate culture of co-creation between the people on the front line and the senior management, based on the shared organisational tacit knowledge. Another element of this corporate culture is the belief in the symbiosis between ‘hand’ and ‘brain’, in other words laying the foundation of an organisation-wide conscious action- that is, the organisation acts and perceives, perceives and acts at the same time.
Phase 4: In this phase Nokia was concerned with combining its individual-based innovative culture with the hands-on management style to continue to renew itself. It faced the challenge of global player of combining the standardisation of its processes, shared corporate values and management style in such a way that the vitality and creativity of the organisation can be sustained. The result is that Nokia is continuously considering new ways and means to inter-link people, actions and knowledge globally.
4.1 How does Nokia do it?
Building growth oriented enterprise platforms
Shared visioning and the strategy-creation process
Interlinked R & D
Organisational change and renewal
‘Binding’ for common reasoning, perception and global action
Growth platform and market maker
Nokia case is about accelerated growth and renewal based on high levels of inspiration which has involved the whole company, not only temporary teams for innovative tasks
The Nokia case also demonstrates ways of acting that cause individual to be interested in and concerned about the future. Such individuals are alert ‘in a sensing mode’, as well as in a proactive mode to anticipate and create future markets.
Knowledge-based corporate culture
4.2 What Nokia speaks about itself (http://www.nokia.com)
Nokia as an employer
The Nokia Employee Value Proposition is a concrete employment offering for each employee from the very first Nokia day onwards. It comprises four fundamental elements to motivate, engage and maintain employee satisfaction and well being at work.
These four elements are
* Nokia way and values
Nokia says that they have created various solutions in each of these four categories to ensure that employees get what they most need and value during their Nokia employment. It takes into account that individuals have different needs at different stages of their worklife.
Social responsibility- community involvement
5. What we learn from the stories of Infosys and Nokia
From the above two reflective stories of Infosys and Nokia, we can argue that the creation of an enterprise culture in the knowledge society involves the creation of a corporates culture which promotes the sharing of disclosive spaces of knowledge, technology and society. It cultivates a culture of entrepreneurship which through its sensitivity to the marginal accepts and respects the richness of the tacit dimension of knowledge as a symbiotic component of enterprise building. In this perspective, the enterprise culture motivates innovate entrepreneurs not just to identify gaps in market and actions to fill those gaps, but also see future needs and gaps and articulate these to make them part of the innovation practice. This entrepreneurial culture thus grows first not to produce and market an already understood widget but to aid in the development of the market for an intuition or new conception. The role of the entrepreneur is to open people to new possibilities and persuade them to live according to these new possibilities.
In the sense of the disclosing new worlds (Spinosa et al, 1997), the creation of an entrepreneurial enterprise involves the sharing disclosive spaces: enabling people to share a disclosive space of ultimate consequence in which they work and live; creating shared visioning and the strategy-creation process
The history makers
Diverging context and Converging value and belief systems
The exemplars of Infosys and Nokia show that the interdependence between the local social, economic, cultural knowledge resources and the environmental contexts (soft technology) and the global technological systems remains at the heart of building entrepreneurial enterprise in the emerging global knowledge society.
Infosys, rooted in the Indian cultural tradition of faith, social trust, family pride and a principled value system, has built a unique epicentre of India’s technological dreams. Its entrepreneurial corporate culture of ‘doing the right thing’ and ‘living by the principles’ owes its creation to the seven Kannadiga engineers under the leadership of the iconic N.R. Narayana Murthy. The value system ingrained in everything Infosys does seems a mixture of the inspirational Murthy's early leftist beliefs and a deep-rooted Indian business tradition where workers are treated as a part of a family. Every time Infosys hires someone, it enters into an implicit social contract with that employee: “give the company your best and the company will take care of you for all time to come.”
Nokia has been enriched by the deep individual cultural tradition rooted in the serene agricultural society of Finland, in interlinking and upgrading the individual and organisational tacit knowledge and converting it into explicit knowledge by means of continuous country-wide shared visioning and strategy- creation process. Nokia being situated in relatively small country with a small population of about 6 million, was able to organise nation-wide interactive forums to create a common foresight, ‘digest’ new knowledge and information, and agreement of future actions.
What we learn from the stories of both Infosys and Nokia is that at the core of building sustainable and growth oriented entrepreneurial enterprises lies the entrepreneurial skill of finding a balance between knowledge, technology, economy and society.
It is interesting to note that whilst the value and belief systems of global corporations of the East and Wets such as Infosys and Nokia are converging, we are also beginning to see the shifting of customer-provider relationships between the East and West. Infosys being the provider of software systems and tools to Western corporation is one of the key Eastern player, contributing to the shifting of this relationship between the East and West.
It is held that this shifting provider-customer relationship between the East and West will not only be accelerated but also sustained provided the emerging corporations in the East remain rooted in their cultural contexts and make effective use of the vast reservoirs their soft technologies.
You said:<The danger is that an enterprise embedded in the global technological platforms may in the short term benefit form its integration into the globalised corporate culture, but its future prosperity may not be sustainable in the long term especially when it turns out that it cannot cope with the periodic fluctuations in global technologies without being cushioned by the indigenous resources of technology.>
In fact it can be argued that the success of Infosys