Developing T-Shaped Professionals to Build Knowledge Business Clusters
David J. Skyrme
As indicated by other articles in this I3 UDPATE, many regions and countries are now recognizing the implications of the knowledge economy and are developing policies and initiatives so that their citizens can participate fully in these new emerging global markets. I recently felt privileged to get an invitation - out of the blue via the Internet! - to run a two day workshop on knowledge management in Curitiba, the capital city of the state of Parana.
Prior to going I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a one day workshop on Latin America at IC2 (see article earlier). This seminar highlighted the number of collaborative development initiatives in countries from Guatemala to Cuba, and Mexico to Brazil. One speaker at this seminar was Ramiro Wahrhaftig, Secretary of Science and Technology for Parana. He outlined the characteristics of the state (in the south of the country) - 9 million inhabitants in a territory with a size larger than France and Germany combined. Called the 'land of all peoples' its inhabitants are descendants of Italian, German, Polish, Ukranian and Japanese immigrants as well as people from other parts of Brazil. For the last few years Parana has been diversifying away from its agricultural base and now boasts many electronic companies and car assembly plants. There are several threads to its industrial diversification:
o The Teacher's University - great emphasis is placed on education, at all levels. At the heart is good teaching and so this university provides a continuing education network. As well as attending one week update courses, teachers have the opportunity to do 'knowledge enriching' projects in their school.
o The ZERI network (Zero Emission Research Initiative) - Applying science and technology to use the waste of some industrial processes as inputs to others. This initiative involves researchers, government agencies and businesses of all types.
o Tecpar Technology Network - integration of several networks to connect universities to businesses to help the processes of technology transfer and continuing education in business.
o Software Corridors - recognizing the growing contribution of software companies in several parts of the state and helping them become world-class exporters. The agency SOFTEX (Software Exports) promotes Brazilian software capabilities (in fields such as document management, global positioning systems, electronic commerce and factory automation) helps development of external partnerships with investors and exporters. It has branches in Silicon Valley, Austin and Bonn.
o Nuovos Talentos (New Talents) Programme - This supports six priority action areas in which to build world-class knowledge businesses: agro-industrial technology and biotechnology, environmental technology, information technology, knowledge management, urban management and materials technology.
It was this final programme that took me to Curitiba - to ISAD (the Graduate Institute of Business Administration - http://www.isad.br) at the Pontifical Catholic University of Parana (PUC-PR), by the invitation of Dr Alvaro Cyrino. To spearhead the programme 30 talented PhD scientists from all over Brazil, and who are specialists in these disciplines are going through eight weeks of development in the management strategies and approaches needed to develop these knowledge industry clusters. The course runs from Friday morning to Sunday lunchtime on eight consecutive week-ends (a tough challenge after doing your normal job from Monday to Thursday!) and as well as knowledge management covers other topics including technology commercialization, national and state scientific and technological development systems, negotiation techniques and project management. There are also technical visits and individual projects.
One of the aims of the programme is to create 'T-shaped' professionals - individuals who are very knowledgeable and expert in their specialty, but who also have a broader management education and awareness of the wider business and political context. This is akin to the IT hybrid manager - specialists in IT who are also knowledgeable about business (see http://www.skyrme.com/insights/6hybrid.htm). In our research then (1990) and in more recent research into the characteristics of successful CKOs, an important factor is a person's ability to network and communicate. These professionals have to bring together people from research establishments, business and governments into to develop a cohesive local strategy for building knowledge businesses that have global presence and relevance.
What was very clear from my two day involvement is that with the talent available, an injection of knowledge about the characteristics of the knowledge economy, managing and exploiting knowledge, a vision and a challenge (from their state Secretary of Science and Technology), that the basic ingredients are quickly coming together. During one of the group work sessions (on developing knowledge industries for their locality, in which five different regions of Brazil were represented), I have never seen such animated discussions in a workshop. I rarely make predictions (preferring alternative scenarios), but I feel confident in making two now:
1. That the world will hear a lot more in future about the new knowledge industries of the state of Parana.
2. That there will be a distinctive style of knowledge management (Latin American style - including 'carnival knowledge') that will provide a viable contrast to the current Anglo-American/European domination in the management literature.
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