In its current form, the field of product innovation and knowledge management is relatively young, materializing within the last 20 years. Yet, vast amounts of knowledge have been, and are continuously being, produced; begging the question, what exactly is being done with all the knowledge?
The concept of a Knowledge-Creating Company is becoming more salient. And in many respects, developing professional knowledge has been regulated to professional development training activities common among Product Management Organizations. These training activities essentially function as formal systems for knowledge processing and are required to advance organizational learning.
Training activities are typically composed of a mix of explicit (formal forms of knowledge that is easily documented and communicable) and tacit knowledge (personalized, less formal, forms of knowledge rooted in one’s experiences and thus difficult to document communicate without an interactive process). Explicit knowledge is developed from various frameworks (a loose and incomplete structure that provides guidance for a process), methodologies (set of principles, tools and practices that are referenced to guide a particular processes to achieve a specific goal), and models (structure or system used to represent a particular situation that is often presented in schematic form). While the tacit knowledge is typically formulated from the best practices that have been developed over the years.
To advance the development of professional knowledge, one needs a mix of explicit and tacit knowledge. Training activities are a great way to achieve this, since they enable a bi-directional knowledge sharing process between the trainer and the participants, creating an atmosphere conducive in developing explicit and tacit knowledge bundles. Effective programs utilize multimodal ways of learning comprising various exercises (using tools, models, etc.) to frame out problems and objectives. This explicit knowledge activity is supported with the tacit knowledge of the trainer which is socialized as certain best practices or shortcuts to the participants. Similarly, when the participants are able to articulate their own tacit knowledge of the practices used within their organization, they develop a new bundle of knowledge. Adding a post-mortem process, where both the trainer and participant internalize the shared knowledge creation through reflections, may result in (for the participant) new organizational structures to facilitate knowledge transfer within the organization, or (for the trainer) can be used to update the training material. The training activities in themselves also foster a sense of co-creation between the training organization and the participants advance knowledge. Each session serves as a negotiation of tangible as well as intangible knowledge between the trainer and participant. The success of these collaborations improve over time and can be applied to future training programs; with each engagement the trainer gains experiences of what explicit knowledge transfer activities worked, the pacing of the activities to facilitate a socialization of the tacit knowledge, and an overall understanding of the organizational problems the participants face.
Continual advancement of training programs, to promote explicit and tacit knowledge bundles, can lead to a competitive advantage by leveraging the knowledge from the training programs to remain market oriented. Specifically this can be achieved through generative learning, as known as double-loop learning where the first loop of learning occurs through information acquisition and the second loop occurs through an internalization of that information. Market Orientation with organizational learning can also occur through the internalization of information. Effective programs achieve this in several ways; first by ensuring the training is updated reflecting the current trends in the market, second by evolving the balance between explicit and tacit knowledge to reflecting the current needs of the market.
The continued growth of knowledge presents a real challenge of developing professional knowledge. As new explicit knowledge is produced, pressure is placed on the practitioners to evolve the tacit knowledge. Professional development training programs have the problem of ensuring their knowledge bundles are current, reflecting both the needs and trends of the market; and this is becoming increasingly difficult as the environment is changing at a faster pace. These challenges cast doubts on those seeking to develop their professional knowledge, risking that any training might be based on, not necessarily obsolete but perhaps, dated knowledge bundles. This requires many programs to continuously reevaluate their knowledge bundles and ways of learning; a great example of this is The Program.