Knowledge and Culture

by Richard Veryard
Philip’s post on Managing over the whole governance cycle draws on some important work by Max Boisot, and I wanted to expand on this a little.

In his book Information and Organization, Boisot identifies four stages in the knowledge cycle, which he associates with four organizational cultures. These can be associated in turn with different strategies.

Knowledge
Diffused
Codified
Culture Industry
Cycle
Typical
Strategy
Public
Yes Yes
Market
Competition
Cost-Based (Sub-
Contract, Outsourcing)
Proprietary
No
Yes
Hierarchy
Monopoly
Product-Based
(Licensing, Hoarding)
Personal
No
No
Network
Start-Up
Problem-Based (Trading,
Intention Economy)
Common-sense
Yes
No
Clan
Oligopoly
Service-Based (Joint
Venture, Mashups)

Philip characterizes Microsoft as following a product-based strategy. I think this characterization is supported by the comments made by Bill Gates in his Mix06 keynote – for example, his idea that Microsoft customers benefit from the existence of other Microsoft customers because a large user base helps Microsoft to improve the product.

Meanwhile, companies like Google and Amazon are following a service-based strategy, and the evidence from the way they are used in mashups shows others are using their services to make the ‘jump’ to start new cycles (see interoperability landscapes). Can they also make this ‘jump’ – to start a new cycle at the next level up? Should they? How would such a strategy be accounted for commercially?

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