Blueprint for the 21st Century
Innovation Management

The World Bank

Perhaps the most comprehensive societal initiatives have been launched recently by The World Bank. According to Stephen Denning, Knowledge Management has become their major strategic theme – getting organized to create, capture, distill and disseminate relevant development knowledge. It is aimed initially at increasing individual effectiveness, transferring information and knowledge to the organizational level, and ultimately making it accessible so that all individuals can take effective action. This constitutes not only a corporate memory of information and best practices, but also incorporates the best knowledge from outside organizations. The Knowledge Management system will interconnect with universities, foundations and other world-class sources of knowledge, so the Bank becomes a clearinghouse in development knowledge.

Although executives have been studying the implications of the knowledge economy for a few years, their efforts became internationally visible with a recent conference, Global Knowledge ’97, sponsored in conjunction with the Canadian government in June 1997. Over 2,000 participants representing 144 countries participated in sessions designed to understand the role of knowledge and information in economic and social development, to share strategies and experiences, and to build new alliances:

This event signals a new spirit of partnership in using knowledge, information and technology in support of economic and social development…How can we best harness this new capacity to foster life-long learning, to improve productivity and to reduce poverty? How can we connect to those who still lack access to even the most basic technologies, social services and economic development activities? How can the information age empower people, and lead to sustained human development? (Global Knowledge ’97, 1997).

As a follow-up to the conference, the comprehensive 1998 World Development Report (WDR) is being prepared with the theme: Knowledge for Development. An international team of experts in Knowledge Management have been serving as an advisory panel on the various topics for inclusion: the increases in production, distribution, and use of knowledge; history, culture, and incentives; the economics of knowledge; implications for country strategies, sectors and income distribution; strategies for households and firms; appropriate role for government; related global issues and areas for global collaboration.