Knowledge Management at Infosys

Innovation

The well known management expert, Peter Drucker throws light on the “sources of innovation” as well as the role that management and the employees have to play in fostering a culture of innovation. For instance, there is a lively debate among experts as to whether innovation is a result of creativity or can be nurtured consciously. Drucker, as is wont, engages us in a nuanced view of innovation that he describes as a combination of inspiration and hard work.

Continuing in the same vein, Drucker lists seven sources of innovation that range from the incidence of unexpected occurrences, incongruities and the role played by sustained focus on the objectives. Taken together, the points made by Drucker emphasize the multifaceted nature of innovation and the need to “incubate” and “ideate” newer ways of doing things.

Overall, Drucker likens the process of innovation to that of entrepreneurship where along with the attendant risks; there is also the satisfaction of “creating” something new by a conscious and focused approach towards knowledge and the intellectual pursuit by learning organizations. It would be pertinent to note that unless organizations bridge the “ingenuity gap”, they would be left behind in the uber competitive marketplace of the 21st century.

Ingenuity Gap

To take the discussion forward, it needs to be mentioned that the “ingenuity gap” that besets many organizations can only be bridged if these firms invest in nurturing the creativity of their employees and formalize processes and procedures as a means of capturing the knowledge quotient of their employees.

For instance, Infosys has KM systems in place that harness the inherent creativity of its employees (which is something that would be discussed in detail later in this report). Hence, it becomes imperative for organization and particularly those in the knowledge intensive sectors to put in place formal and informal systems to spur creativity and innovation. Considering the fact that the knowledge intensive firms have a surfeit of human capital and a deficit of ideas, the marriage between innovation and human capital can lead to wondrous results.

Like in any collaborative framework, the practice of encouraging innovation leads to the overall effect from individual employees coalescing en masse much greater than the sum of the parts as is the wont with any endeavor that brings synergies (which is what the above sentence implies) to the process.

Knowledge Management at Infosys

The KM management at Infosys is done through a formalized structure that has been put in place over a number of years. There is the concept of a KShop wherein employees can submit, share and view content or artifacts as they are called in Infosys jargon. These artifacts are both externally procured and internally generated.

The external artifacts consist of business journals, scientific journals, trade magazines etc that are made available online after doing due diligence with regards to IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) of the content.

Further, there are the technical papers and reports that are procured to assist the employees in acquiring knowledge thereby helping them in the ideating process. There is also significant internally generated content that is the contribution of employees to the Knowledge base either singly or in collaboration with other employees.

This internally generated content consists of process improvement suggestions, technical documents, white papers, and case studies etc, that are the contributions of employees. The point here is that the content is there for all to view and download (except in some cases where the senior members are only allowed to view and download the content) and to partake of the knowledge contained in them.

The other feature of the KM system at Infosys is that employees earn what are called KCU’s (Knowledge Currency Units) as a reward system for their contributions to KShop. In this way, Infosys has adopted the model of reward and recognition through virtual and real currency (since employees can exchange KCU’s for real and tangible benefits) means though there has been a lot of debate over the efficacy of such mechanism especially where it concerns collaborative KM as opposed to competitive KM.

However, this is not to say that the KM system is ineffective in Infosys as the data shows that KShop has indeed been a catalytic system for incubating and nurturing ideas and knowledge. Another feature of the KM system in Infosys is that it is tiered meaning that it operates at several levels and across vertical and horizontal domains giving it reaches and breadth, as well as size and scope. The important thing to remember is that the KM system in Infosys can be said to have leveraged on the “economies of scale” particularly in the context of Infosys’ scorching growth over the years.

Monetizing Innovation and KM

There has been a lot of debate on whether firms that “monetize” rewards for innovation either through virtual currency or real currency succeed as opposed to firms that reward innovation through other means. We can see this playing out as far as Infosys is concerned as Infosys practices both virtual rewards and real currency rewards for those who submit artifacts to KShop and earn KCU’s in the process. As many experts have pointed out, monetizing the rewards can hinder the “tacit” knowledge sharing that is characteristic of mature organizations.

Hence, there appears to be a case for Infosys to “evolve” further in the way it recognizes and rewards ideas and innovative suggestions.

Conclusion

The KM system in Infosys can be said to be the best in India as well as being a frontrunner in the Asia Pacific region as evidenced by the ratings and rankings it receives from numerous trade publications. A point to be noted is that unless organizations display top-level commitment towards ideating and incubating, there cannot be effective KM systems and this is the overriding conclusion that the analysis of Infosys concludes.


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