Knowledge management practices in Bangladesh: An empirical study

M. A. Akkas Professor, Department of Management, University of Dhaka

M. A. Akkas
Professor, Department of Management, University of Dhaka

Abstract- Knowledge management (KM) is becoming a popular topic in the modern competitive world as it helps organizations to ensure sustainable performance. This paper attempts to establish connection between knowledge management and innovation in developing countries like Bangladesh. Barriers and success factors of KM in the context of Bangladesh have been collected from 98 respondents through a structured questionnaire. It has been found that the success or failure of KM programs depends on the presence of numerous factors. The main requirements for KM success, among others, are to develop the right human capital (knowledge, skills, and abilities) and provide the necessary instruments, follow a systematic process and sustain a congenial environment. It can be concluded that proper KM promote innovation, which in turn, can make a significant contribution to the development of sustainable competitive advantage.

Keywords- Knowledge management, Knowledge driven innovation, success and failure factors

There is no denying the fact that knowledge is power. It is a common belief that knowledge increases a person / organization’s capacity for useful action Knowledge is the greatest asset of every organization, yet it can be an overlooked and underutilized resource if not managed effectively. It is known as an aspect of production (knowledge capital). One who has wisdom is powerful. A wise man is powerful and it is knowledge that increases the strength of a wise man. There is an old saying; competent is one who is judicious. But the reality is that there is no limit of knowledge because knowledge is progressing very fast and everyday new knowledge is added and many existing knowledge is becoming obsolete and redundant. It is a widely held argument that a wise man knows his or her weakness very well to presume infallibility; and he or she knows best how little he/she knows. He knows his limitations. The more a person is knowledgeable, the more he knows his limitations/deficiencies. In the words of Socrates, “To know is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge”. Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance..It is not possible for a single individual or an organization to master and acquire all the available knowledge. Developed countries are increasingly becoming a knowledge based society. The modern economy is knowledge driven. Those who have maintained the status quo are lagging behind in the competitive world. To accelerate economic growth, developing countries need to give top- most attention to knowledge creation and its proper implementation. This has led to the concept of knowledge management (KM).

Nowadays KM has been of great interest globally. Let us have a look at the meaning of knowledge. The Oxford Dictionary interprets knowledge as a know-how, understanding of someone or something, such as information, descriptions, or skills, which is gained or acquired through experience or learning by perceiving discovering, or learning. Knowledge can indicate an academic or realistic understanding of a subject. It can be implicit (as with realistic skill or expertise) or explicit (as with the theoretical understanding of a subject); it can be more or less formal or systematic. In an organizational context, knowledge is the summation of what is known and resides in the aptitude and the proficiency of people. From the religious point of view, knowledge comes before action; there can be no action without knowledge. All religions encourage people to search for knowledge.

A proactive organization gives much attention to the management of its intellectual capital. Both commercial and public organizations are well aware of the importance of being effective learning organizations and therefore there is a rising need for individuals with suitable skill and competences. Smith (2001) rightly argues that KM creates a new working environment where knowledge and experience can easily be shared and also enables information and knowledge to emerge and flow to the right people at the right time so they can act most efficiently. KM encourages a firm’s managers at all levels to spend more money, times and effort to handle information and knowledge. KM is an idea in which an enterprise knowingly and widely gathers, organizes, shares and analyzes its knowledge in terms of assets, documents, and people skills (Baddi and Sharif (2003) . Knowledge management is the organized management of an organization’s knowledge assets for creating value and meeting tactical & strategic requirement. Knowledge management is a collaborative and integrated approach to creating, capturing, organization , and using of an enterprise ‘ s intellectual assets. ( Grey 1996).

This paper aims at knowing how an organization can be more creative and innovative in knowledge management (KM). It is the process of creating, sharing, and making best effective use of organizational knowledge (Davenport, 1996). It is creating new knowledge and distributing the same among the stakeholders. It indicates a multi-disciplinary approach to achieve organizational objectives. Managing knowledge in organizations could be considered as a key factor for the success in today’s business world. Knowledge management helps today’s complex organizations to make better decisions and solve their problems effectively through capturing, organizing, documenting and sharing organizational knowledge ( Hoq and Akter,2012 ). The concept of KM is discussed in detail in the next section. Research on knowledge management in the context of Bangladesh is very limited, although it is very issue for the growth and development of the country. The purpose of this paper is to attain a better understanding of how some critical factors in the successful application of knowledge management (KM) in an organizational setting. Innovation and knowledge need to be combined together through a process of integration for improving business performance.

Concept of Knowledge Management and Innovation
The concept of knowledge management is comparatively new; therefore, companies are facing a complexity in theorizing knowledge, determining the components of knowledge, and determining initiative for incorporating knowledge into the innovation process (Zaman and Jalil, 2014). KM is the logical management of an organization’s knowledge assets for creating value and meeting tactical & strategic requirements. It is made up with the initiatives, strategies, and systems in order to enhance the creation of knowledge. KM has been defined as the identification, optimization and active administration of intellectual assets, either in the form of overt knowledge held in objects or as tacit knowledge owned by individuals or societies (Snowden, 2000). KM is a concept in which an enterprise deliberately and widely gathers, organizes shares and analyzes its knowledge in terms of resources, documents, and people skills. KM identifies, captures, shares, and evaluates an enterprise’s information assets, which may include databases, documents, policies, as well as the un-captured tacit expertise and experience stored in individuals’ heads. Truly speaking, knowledge is a scholarly source of an organization. The aim of KM efforts is to focus on organizational goals, such as enhanced performance, competitive advantage, innovation, the sharing of lessons with others, assimilation and continuous improvement of the organization. It is believed that KM is a strategic asset and so we should focus on encouraging the sharing or dissemination of knowledge. In order to succeed and grow, an organization needs create and transfer knowledge from one section of the organization to another. It is essential to create, organize, and distribute knowledge and ensure it makes available for future users. Knowledge transfer is the process by which a person, a group or department is affected by the knowledge and experience of another.

Today’s organizations are in an unending struggle to differentiate themselves from ruthless competitors, as markets become flooded with new innovations all the time. The ability to make a distinction relies on the “intelligent use” of knowledge management for innovation. As a result, many organizations have been trying new techniques based on unique production processes, rare and distinct skills, and creativity (Gold et al, 2001). Organizations realize that knowledge must be applied for promoting innovation and innovation helps organizations to make sizeable profit. For example, Nokia, a leading mobile company, has always applied KM practices in its business process and has been succeeded to make substantial benefits in innovative product development functions. Nokia makes the best use of KM practices widely to understand market trends and customer demands and puts useful knowledge into action for its innovation pipeline.

There are many academic articles focusing on the topic of knowledge management and innovation (Baddi and Sharif (2003). Knowledge process includes elements such has creation of knowledge, integration of knowledge, sharing knowledge and codification of knowledge (Newell et al. 2009). Darroch and McNaughton (2002) indicate that “knowledge management is a management function that creates or locates knowledge, manages the flow of knowledge and ensures that knowledge is used effectively and efficiently for the long?term benefit of the organization”. KM promotes the innovation, the construction of new ideas and the exploitation of the organization’s thinking power.

A considerable number of authors also state that operational autonomy is a factor that assists innovation processes (Feldman, 1989). Innovation refers to the introduction of a new combination of the essential factors of production into the production system (Chen, 2004). Innovation is a knowledge process aimed at creating new knowledge geared towards the development of commercial and viable solutions ( Herkema,2003). Innovation is a process wherein “knowledge is acquired, shared and assimilated with the aim to create new knowledge, which embodies products and services”( Nonaka,1991).Top managers must play a dynamic role in creating and promoting a dream of knowledge sharing and innovation within their organizations.. Parlby and Taylor (2000) are of the opinion that KM is about the generation of new ideas and the exploitation of the organization’s thinking power.

Role of Knowledge Management in innovation
KM plays an important role in innovation. Innovation and knowledge are both drivers for development (Bandoro, 2014). Innovation as well as knowledge creation has a strong association, but this association between the two has not been properly analyzed methodically (McDonough, et al, 2008). It is believed that knowledge is an indefinable and distinctive asset that provides a firm with innovation. An organization can choose to innovate based on existing knowledge or it can develop or obtain new knowledge. These positions are interrelated. The existing knowledge of a firm guides its innovation activity and the knowledge it desires. The focus of its innovation activity influences the knowledge it has and the knowledge it needs in order to compete in its chosen arena. The first driver for KM’s role in innovation in today’s business environment is to generate, construct and preserve competitive advantage through exploitation of knowledge and through collaboration practices. KM is not solely focused on innovation, but it creates an environment favorable for promoting innovation..
KM helps in creating tools and platforms for tacit knowledge creation and sharing the same in the organization. This tacit knowledge sparks creativity and innovation in an organization. It assists in converting tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge. KM facilitates collaboration in the innovation process. KM assists in identifying gaps in the knowledge base and provides processes to fill the gaps in order to support innovation. KM assists in promoting capabilities required for making a successful innovation process.

Efficiency and productivity are the real benefit of an innovation. It is a natural outcome of people working together for a common cause in a group or an organizational setting. Promoting innovation is the heart of the KM. Therefore, successful KM enables innovation, as connecting people and empowering them to share their knowledge and collaboration. Sharing of knowledge creates new knowledge, and then this new knowledge has been already an innovation process. Knowledge management is not exclusively focused on innovation, but it creates an environment favorable to promoting valuable innovation.

But however, the difficulty faced by collaborators in innovation networks is that appropriate trust-based social relations may not prevail and this distrust has made knowledge sharing extremely difficult. (Hislop, 2005).Therefore, the main challenge of innovation is the creation of ‘sharing’ organizational culture and trust among employees. The attitude of the managers and workers matters strongly to the success of the innovation process. . Besides of innovation through knowledge sharing, innovation can be created through knowledge capturing. Innovation is very much involved in continuous change of organizational practices, procedures, internal managements and so opinion response to the internal and external change. In conclusion, it can be said that KM systems have a distinctive contribution in the development of sustainable competitive advantage through innovation. Innovation is the creation of ‘sharing’ organizational culture and trust among employees. The attitude of the managers and workers matters strongly to the success of the innovation process. . Besides of innovation through knowledge sharing, innovation can be created through knowledge capturing. Innovation is very much involved in continuous change of organizational practices, procedures, internal managements and so opinion response to the internal and external change. In conclusion, it can be said that KM systems have a distinctive contribution in the development of sustainable competitive advantage through innovation.

Integration of km and innovation management
The immediate strategic concern, as the global competition amongst firms’ strengthens and becomes visible to be too much dealing with KM or IM issues independently. To a certain extent, it engrosses obtaining the ability to tie together KM practices for IM procedures as a deliberate strategy at all that would convey organizations up the performance hierarchy. Some time ago, organizations that depend on the accomplishment of new innovations to sustain organizational performance. Knowledge innovation (KI) is a latent foundation of competitive advantage. To provide insights into the strategic management of KI, the two significant streams of thinking behind knowledge management (KM) and innovation management (IM)need to be drawn closer. Justifiably, widespread strategic issues of KM and IM may circulate the light on how both areas can be better incorporated, with the aim of elucidating theoretical viewpoints based on realistic contemplations.
To offer a more profound appreciation of this aspect of management of knowledge innovation (KI), a strategic management framework is proposed, as a conceptual model to help organizations understand how knowledge innovation can be managed in a more holistic, inclusive and coordinated manner.

Significance of km
Chong (2005) highlighted the significance of KM to the economy of a country in general and a company in particular. He highlighted the significance of KM in the age globalization. The world economy is shifting from production based to knowledge based. On top of that knowledge based management has driven towards the innovation. KM helps today’s complex organizations to make better decisions and solve their problems effectively. Learning enterprises must hire, develop, stimulate and uphold knowledge workers, who make essential changes in organization.

To run the knowledge based economy, there is a strong demand for knowledge workers (R&D people). There is no retirement age limit for knowledge workers in the developed countries like the USA. Even in Bangladesh, university teachers’ retirement age has been increased from 57 to 65 years. KM produces benefits both for knowledge workers and their organizations. The business world is changing very fast and innovation is the master key to success and it is the main factor that determines the economic growth. A sound knowledge base promotes or sparks creativity and innovation. Thus, it is clear that innovation is extremely dependent on the availability of knowledge and therefore it is extremely important to manage knowledge for fostering fruitful innovation (Adams and Lamont, 2003). Innovative people are more satisfied as they enjoy high social status. Organizations must make sure that their business strategies are original to make and uphold competitive advantage. KM also helps organizations by protecting their intellectual capital, giving consideration to their most important assets: their human capital. Mere innovation is not sufficient enough to provide a competitive advantage over the competitors. For that, more intelligent innovation is needed. Organizations are feeling that knowledge can play an important role in this regard.. It helps in stable growth of the knowledge base through the gathering and capturing of explicit and tacit knowledge.

KM defends organization’s intellectual capital, gives concentration to their human capital and connects people to people by establishing shared methods. The successful implementation of KM systems is vital for organizations to be competitive in knowledge-oriented markets and industries. Organizations implement KM to develop efficiency and to provide successful ways of using their intellectual capital. KM is no longer an option but rather it is a necessity for organizations anywhere in the world if they have to compete successfully (Singh and Kant, 2008). In a knowledge-based economy, organizations’ intellectual capital is making a big difference (Jafari et al., 2007).

KM opens the doors to a new era of collaboration and sharing. People need to make cooperation with peers, exchange ideas, and keep current on global matters and have quick answers to their questions. KM may increase company benefits. KM helps solve most of the common business problems and helps companies increase their benefits by improving business decisions. IT also increases efficiency and productivity and work smarter by reducing cases of reinventing the wheel. Furthermore, it endorses significant innovation through cross country collaboration, decreases loss of know-how by capturing precise and tacit knowledge, and speeds productivity with on-board trainings and timely access to knowledge.

Methodology of the study
This paper has been written using both primary and secondary data. Primary data have been gathered by interviewing top managers of different business and research organizations (research, university, pharmaceutical, bank and textile) located at Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. The questionnaire was developed on the basis of an extensive literature review and expert opinion collected from in-depth interviews. Then, it was pre-rested on a set of 25 experts. It was ended with some corrections and modifications. The questionnaire was sent to 120 respondents selected through convenience sampling technique and 98 filled in questionnaires were returned resulting in a high rate of response. Both manufacturing and service (university and R&D institutes) was chosen. The respondents are asked to explain the success and failure story of their KM initiatives. Additionally, online and published articles are also reviewed to make the paper more informative. The questionnaire contained few statements and each statement could be answered on a five point Likert scale from 1= strongly disagree to 5= strongly agree. After collecting the data, valid responses were coded in order to make analysis towards hypothesis testing. The null and alternative hypotheses for each item in the success and failure factors are as follows:
H0: µ?3——The mean score is equal or less than three. In other words, the item is not important and can be ignored.
H1: µ>3——The mean score is greater than three. In other words, the item is important and cannot be ignored.

Here 3.0 is a neutral value on five-point Likert scale.
For each item, frequencies, mean and standard deviation are presented and decisions, whether to accept or reject the null hypothesis, are made based on the calculated t-statistic.

Respondents’ profile: Primary data for this study were collected from 98 employees working in different organizations in Bangladesh. A brief profile of the respondents is given below.

Results and findings
The following table presents the important aspects that need to be taken into account for the creation of knowledge in an organization. Research results also indicate that there was a certain degree of understanding and implementation of KM concepts in Bangladesh. Firstly, barriers to KM have been identified and ranked.

Barriers to km
Respondents have been asked to identify barriers to KM in their respective organizations. This section had 25 measures chosen on the basis of expert survey and pre-testing of the questionnaire. However, five of the 25 measures are found to have no importance according to the responses given in the final survey. The respondents think that these measures are not necessarily significant elements to pose barriers in knowledge management. This outcome is surprising to a great extent and contrary to the traditional wisdom of knowledge management. On the other hand, respondents emphasized on those issues that must be minimized or eliminated from an organization for successful implementation and operation of knowledge management.
Success factors
Knowledge driven innovation can be developed that would show a meaningful way to achieve sustainable competitive advantage. An attempt has been made to identify the best practices that would make knowledge management program work in an organization. Respondents have identified many factors contributing to the success or otherwise of a knowledge management initiative. The review of literature also helps the authors to substantiate the findings. Experts (Atwood, 2002; Whiting, 1999; Weber, Aha and Becerra, 2001; Davenport, 1998) have also offered guidelines to make KM successful. The factors identified affect on the success of KM system directly or indirectly and have also implications on each other.
The t values of one-sample test of corresponding measures/factors are top management support and commitment (4.059), favorable organizational culture (2.977), storage of tacit and explicit knowledge (3.583), training program (2.919), alignment with business strategy (2.137), sharing of knowledge (3.726), transmitting newly created knowledge (2.938), networks (2.444), integration of human resource and technology (2.515), knowledge auditing (3.092), rewarding the contributors (2.196), cooperation and collaboration (2.783) which are significant at .05 level of significance. Therefore, alternative hypotheses are accepted and it can be concluded that these factors contribute to the successful management of knowledge. All aspects, except three, have been considered to be very important measures for knowledge management. The measures that are rejected in this study are also important elements. This finding may be taken as unexpected.

It is evident from Table 1 that there are many factors that cause KM projects to fail. All these factors show the gloomy side of this process for managers and disclose issues that may not be thought of or intentionally censored in the narration of successful experiences. Managers’ ignorance of these factors could jeopardize the KM projects and causes the eventual wastage of organizational resource. Respondents selected in the different organizations in Bangladesh have identified a good number of factors that cause abortion of KM initiatives. Few important failure factors are lack of top management support, inadequate infrastructural facilities, poor research fund, lack of communication among employees, the absence of financial and psychological reward system, unfavorable organizational culture, absence of cooperation between universities and industries, and lack of trust between managers and employees.

Top management support and commitment are absolutely essential in order to succeed KM program and planning of an organization. There is no shortage of ideas and knowledge in Bangladesh , but many bright ideas are washed out because top management lacks interest in knowledge activities. Of course a KM program also needs CEO support for being successful in design and implementing phase. KM operations need to be connected with the organization’s mission. Top management should encourage innovation and positive criticism. Top management must have tolerance for mistakes. An open and responsive organizational and knowledge culture must prevail because effective KM cannot take place without extensive behavioral, cultural, and organizational change (Davenport and Prusak, 1998). A supportive encourages sharing of knowledge. Sharing of knowledge plays a significant role in implementing as well as executing KM system.

A single organization may not succeed in KM in isolation. There is a need for cooperation and collaboration with different stakeholders. An organization can take measures to promote collaboration and for fostering collaboration, transparency is a must. Managers should consider technology as a facilitator, not a replacement for human expertise and intelligence. Social Media plays a significant role in knowledge management as it facilitates employees to cooperate with each other, connect furthermore rapid access to experts and information. Social networks also consent people to collaborate as well as to express themselves in the electronic atmosphere.

With a view to scattering knowledge policies as well as the totality of knowledge in the organization, employees should be converted into completely along with deeply well-known with knowledge concepts. Consequently, training programs play a vital role for an organization which is to conduct KM. In the rapidly changing world, human beings are likely to become obsolete as quickly as machines and hence require to be upgraded with new knowledge and skills through continuing education and training. Knowledge workers are supported to continuously innovate, improve efficiency, ensure value addition and initiate strategic actions, which involves the creation and use of knowledge. The value of human resources in knowledge activities can be judged from the fact that continuing education and training for skills enhancement and the renewal of competencies and capabilities is getting as much attention now as formal education itself. It is important for knowledge workers ask questions, challenge traditional ideas, and learn. Encourage employee to become multi-skilled experts. Rewarding the contributors of knowledge for sharing it with others. Rewarding may be monetary and psychological (appreciation and recognition). Knowledge sharing is a process where individuals mutually exchange their implicit (tacit) and explicit knowledge to create new knowledge (Hoff and Ridders, 2004). Akkas (2014) claimed that knowledge sharing improves individual and organization performance and innovative capacity.. Sharing the benefits of KM with the contributors may also enhance motivation. For developing knowledge in the organization, there should be some networks for facilitating sharing of knowledge between experts. These networks can be shaped as systematic working groups, denomination of practices, understanding teams as well as knowledge centers.

In this increasingly complex, competitive and uncertain world, the creation, accumulation and strategic use of cutting edge knowledge will play a crucial role for survival, development and advancement in almost every sector of the economy. At present the consequence of KM is obvious to many organizations and the managers should explore for the main factors for being successful in KM.. There is an unending demand for KM because of turbulent and stiff competition across the globe. Learning organization places more emphasis on KM because KM results in more innovation.. It is clear that the most important property of every organization is its organized knowledge and accurate management of knowledge would build core competencies for the organization and help an organization guarantee victory against the competitors. It has been found that KM initiatives experience both success and failures. Success and failure factors have been identified.. It is reasonable to argue that for managers in large companies with complex structure and large number of employees who will be involved in the KM, the main concern should be creating such incentives that convince knowledge workers to share their knowledge and utilize others’ knowledge and experience.Managers must develop a knowledge-driven culture to enhance knowledge sharing and encourage knowledge management, innovation and creative thinking.
Limitations of the study
The present study suffers from certain limitations. Firstly, its sample design was not very scientific. Secondly, the sample studied for the survey was not large enough to be truly representative of the population. Finally, sophisticated tools could not be used for analyzing the collected data. The analytical tools were descriptive statistics such as frequencies, mean, standard deviation and t-test for testing hypothesis. There is a scope for conducting further studies with more systematic research design and structure with a view to drawing more valid and reliable conclusions on the topic.

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