Knowledge systems

There is a need to select a system for knowledge, but what is it to be? The first general concept is a combination of the traditional and the new; but the short answer is that the Western ideology of knowledge may prevent this. One of the knowledge bases for processing technology is science; however, Western science as well as not appreciating technology even finds it hard to tolerate technology that it can neither comprehend nor appropriate (Marglin, 1996). This has presented problems in food knowledge because it has led to definitions of food science and food technology as being different, with one thought of as superior knowledge to the other. This is quite basic to Western thought, with ideas of episteme and techne:

• episteme is knowledge based on logical deduction from self-evident first principles;

• techne reveals itself only through practice, its theory being implicit and usually available to practitioners.

Techne is embodied as well as embedded in a local social, cultural and historical context (Apfell-Marglin, 1996). Techne knowledge is geared to creation and discovery rather than to verification; it recognises a variety of avenues to knowledge; the test of knowledge is practical efficacy. This knowledge split between episteme and techne was epitomised in food industry knowledge by the craftsman and the food scientist.

But now, knowledge and action are increasingly based on a combination, a synthesis between episteme and techne. In the food industry it will be the ability to synthesise a method of product development that combines logical thought with action in building knowledge, so that greater knowledge develops and therefore more advanced products. As Apfell-Marglin (1996) noted 'a particular system has its own theory of knowledge, its rules for acquiring and sharing knowledge, its own distinctive ways for changing the content of what counts as knowledge; and finally its own rules of governance, both among insiders and between insiders and outsiders.' Food industry management can do this by making strong access links into the universities and the research centres, and at the same time providing an atmosphere and organisation to create new knowledge. This again needs the adoption of total technology as a basis for company management and in particular innovation management. The dominance of one function has led to a lack of true development in the food industry.

• The domination of the financial knowledge system led to cost cutting, staff redundancy and mergers, which in the end decreased the total knowledge in the company and the industry.

• The domination of the marketing knowledge system led to deterioration in technical ability and plant.

• The domination of the production knowledge system led to deterioration in the consumer/product relationship and loss of competitive strengths.

For successful product innovation, there is a need today for a knowledge system which integrates and does not allow domination; which accepts and uses the logical thought and principles of science but actively creates knowledge by venturing into unknown futures. Product development is a process that is built on this type of knowledge system as shown in Fig. 4.4.

The knowledge capabilities in product development are related to all the functions in the company, R&D, intellectual property, engineering, purchasing, quality assurance, rapid testing of the product, distribution system, personnel, environmental relations, and so on. Everything and everyone need to be included as shown in Box 4.2. This is an example of both collecting the company's information and of using it to develop new knowledge, new products and new restaurants.

The knowledge system relies mainly on three human factors: cognitive understandings, learned skills and deeply held beliefs of individuals (Quinn, 1992). Quinn chose the term cognitive understanding instead of knowledge to emphasise that what is needed is a perceptive and understanding knowledge. The PD team needs the know-how for an activity, and also needs the skills to perform the activity. But if there is a lack of self-belief, will or motivation to succeed, then the activity may be completed at a lower level and in a longer time. The company has to have the know-how to solve the product development problems, the skills to use

Fig. 4.4 Science, engineering and total technology.

R&D Engineering Product development

Fig. 4.4 Science, engineering and total technology.

this know-how and develop the commercial product, and the belief in the product that motivates them to lead the project to product success. Bringing the three together in people leads to outstanding product designers, process engineers, marketers, production staff and financial experts. Bringing the three together in the company Board and in management leads to an outstanding company. The knowledge system for product development depends less on providing capital and physical resources (although they are still needed) than on finding and educating people to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes they need for product development in general and for specific tasks in product development.

The knowledge system also needs to share knowledge, and to provide structures such as teams to encourage this sharing. Knowledge grows when shared, some people would say exponentially. The company knowledge base increases with time, the next project starting from a higher knowledge base than the previous project. Sharing is an excellent way to create knowledge; people with different knowledge and skills, talking, interacting and working together rub ideas off each other so that original ideas form. People with specialised knowledge need to be educated to share their knowledge with other people, so that they can increase their own knowledge as well as blend in with other specialist knowledge in the company. One of the great hurdles to knowledge growth is knowledge snobbery, one type of people thinking they are superior to others. In a commercial company, which has to deliver successful technology -products, markets and production - it can be a complete disaster. The aim for success is interwoven, forward-looking knowledge. It must be realised that there is a certain limit to the amount of knowledge that people can carry; some can work only in one area, others may manage two areas, the outstanding people three or four. Information overload can swamp people. But everyone can integrate knowledge, if it is in a basic form without speciality details and jargon.

It is important to identify what are the key knowledge areas to have in the company and concentrate on them. Knowledge can be bought from outside to

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