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In Information Age, Knowledge Is Useful But Not Reused, Study Finds

July 04, 2000|From Associated Press

Information everywhere, but not for sharing. Instead, much of it is going to waste.

Yes, even in this, the Information Age, when government, academia and business pride themselves on uncovering or discovering or assembling information. But using it, it seems, is another matter.

In a study of 4,500 scientists, engineers and managers in technology-intensive companies, most of them report that knowledge in one area of the enterprise is not reused throughout the company.

The finding may be a startling reflection of an age in which "intellectual capital" is outwardly prized and paid dearly for, and sometimes described as "our most important asset."

Among the study's surprises is that 70% of the knowledge workers said information wasn't reused and that 88% said they have no access to lessons learned elsewhere in the organization.

If the study reflects the true status of information usage, and if its findings are confirmed in other public and private-sector institutions, it indicates the Information Age has yet to grow up.

It also contradicts the popular image of companies mining their own operations for information in a never-ending quest for competitive advantage. Instead, it suggests valuable ore lies at the surface unused.

The study was conducted with 10 technology-intensive companies in North America, Europe and Asia by USC and Los Angeles-based Korn/Ferry International, an executive search firm. In addition to the survey of 4,500 high-tech employees, the study included interviews and focus groups with 500 business and technical leaders.

The study indicates businesses have a long way to go in defining knowledge-management challenges and in the arts of generating, retaining and leveraging knowledge.

The latter skill is especially important in the high-tech area, where ideas and methods quickly trump existing procedures and products, putting a premium on the wise utilization of inventions and discoveries. In some instances, it can mean the difference between being No. 1 and being an also-ran.

"There is a knowledge imperative," said Windle B. Priem, Korn/Ferry's chief executive. "Companies able to capture and share knowledge obtain superior business performance."

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