[Based on Forms of knowledge and modes of innovation by Morten Berg Jensen, Bjorn Johnson, Edward Lorenz, Bengt Ake Lundvall]
Just as people have different learning styles, there are different modes of innovation that can take place within an organization. Understanding here can help an organization identify strengths and weakness in their innovation management. Commonly we refer to two modes of innovation: Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) and Doing, Using and Interacting (DUI). These two modes of innovation refer to different forms of knowledge.
There are 4 main forms of knowledge:
- Know-what: Basic understanding and information about the world. (ex. Watering a tree makes it grow.)
- Know-why: Scientific understanding of laws and principles that govern the ‘what.’ (ex. The chemical reactions that cause water to make a tree grow.)
- Know-how: Less interested in why it happens than that is happens. A set of skills and competencies acquired through experience. (ex. Watering a tree in a specific way, at specific times help it grow best.)
- Know-who: Personal relationships with others – knowledge acquired through a community and social skills of how to utilize/interact with community. (ex. A network of knowledgeable tree growers that exchange tips to help each other grow better trees.)
“important aspects of know-what and know-why may be obtained through reading books, attending lectures and accessing data bases, the two other categories are more rooted in practical experience” [p682]
Understanding these forms of knowledge allows us to have a conversation about the two modes of innovation, STI and DUI, which draw on different forms of knowledge.
STI innovation is based on scientific knowledge, the ‘know-why,’ and the formalized ‘know-what.’ STI knowledge is explicit knowledge, meaning it is able to be written down and understood by others who read it.
- The benefit of STI innovation is global knowledge access. Organizations tend to like STI innovation because it is seen as easier to measure and understand – there is a formal process. (ex. Once I know why water makes a tree grow, I can share that with anyone in the world and use others’ knowledge to further develop my own because there is a formal process for doing so.)
- The downside of STI is that it is ‘codified scientific and technical knowledge’ that requires a higher level of know-why competency to understand. (ex. I need to understand basic chemistry to understand the chemical reactions that make a tree grow.)
DUI innovation is based on experiential knowledge, the ‘know-how’ and ‘know-who,’ often called learn-by-doing. DUI knowledge is implicit/tacit knowledge, meaning it is understood without being stated and in fact might not truly make sense if stated – like riding a bike.
- The benefit of DUI innovation is a wealth of information based on interaction inside and outside the organization, focused on what can we do with this information, practical application, instead of why are we finding this information. DUI brings with it a powerful feedback loop that helps organizations build the right thing, often quicker, and be open to solutions that it may not currently see – this links to organizational learning. (ex. I can learn how to make my tree grow better from talking to other people and doing my own experimentation.)
- The downside of DUI is that it that, due to its high dependance on interaction and network, it is often very localized. Though not true, it is often seen as hard to measure and build organizational structure around.
“Recent models of innovation emphasize that innovation is an interactive process in which firms interact both with customers and suppliers and with knowledge institutions… Despite the broad acceptance of this literature, there remains a bias among scholars and policy makers to consider innovation processes largely as aspects connected to formal processes of R&D, especially in the science-based industries.” [p681]
When combined, DUI and STI is the best structure for innovation. For competitive advantage, being able to source knowledge and innovation in different ways gives an organization a huge edge over others that may limit their modes of innovation to just one mode. To complete the tree example: learning why water makes a tree grow and how different watering techniques make a tree grow better would allow you to develop a special vitamin delivery system for improving a tree’s utilization of water – an organization with just one mode would miss either the vitamins or the delivery system.