April 25, 2003

Smith Schools HCIT Center Opens The Knowledge Exchange

You access a stock exchange to buy stock, the futures exchange to trade grain, but where do you go to trade in that rarest of commodities, good ideas?

The Smith Schools Center for Human Capital, Innovation, and Technology (HCIT) has the answer in The Knowledge Exchange, a unique gathering of research scholars and human resource professionals at the Robert H. Smith School of Business, held on April 25, 2003. Center Director Susan Taylor and Associate Director Paul Tesluk presided over a daylong discussion of one of the most compelling topics in business today: knowledge sharing among teams.

This is a perfect topic for the center to bring forward, says Taylor. Our mission is to explore the interface of human capital, innovation, and technology -- and learn how these resources can be managed to create competitive advantage.

Marketers would argue that competitive advantage lies in areas like pricing, product distinction, and reputation, says Tesluk, but in today's highly competitive environment, firms need to look for an advantage wherever they can find it. Research shows that knowledge sharing among teams is just such an advantage.

Tom Ruddy, director of human resources and organizational development at Siemens Corporation, presented the keynote presentation, Using Teams to Leverage Organizational Knowledge. Ruddy spent 13 years designing and implementing empowered team strategies for Xerox's Worldwide Customer Service organization. Drawing on this experience in overseeing the implementation of a worldwide knowledge management system known as Eureka, and leading Siemens human capital efforts, Ruddy offered practical insights into the use of technology to facilitate knowledge sharing among teams. When you lay fiber-optic cable through a jungle, says Ruddy, the experience offers enormous benefits the next time you do it. The challenge is capturing, and sharing that information is essential.

Software programs, such as Siemens Sharenet, have streamlined the process, but the structured world we've come to admire in the digital world presents distinct challenges to human knowledge sharing.

Humans have exchanged knowledge throughout history in all manner of stories, songs, poetry, and its been effective, says Ruddy. Today, the challenge is migrating those essentially human forms of communication to the computer. For example, Ruddy will talk about the time a Xerox employee recorded a sound into a knowledge management tool known as Eureka. The technician used his personal computer to record the sound the machine was making. It was then added as an attachment to the technical tip that was shared in the electronic knowledge-sharing database. Ruddy explained. When you heard that sound coming out, the machine had a certain amount of hours left before it failed. So when a technician on the job hears that, he or she says, Hey, I recognize that sound and knows what to expect.

Other panel members included Kimberly Y. Carter, quality coordinator for Bovis Land Lease; Kimo Kippen, vice president of Worldwide Learning Resources for Marriott International; and David Moorehouse, technical director of advanced composites for Nurad Technologies.

The perspective they brought is that each of them has had significant involvement in leading or managing teams, says Tesluk. They brought an important in-the-trenches perspective from diverse areas and provided an important source of knowledge exchange for conference participants.


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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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