A revolution in the sharing of knowledge…

Transforming e-Knowledge
TABLE OF CONTENTS     Paths to the e-Knowledge Future   © SCUP 2003
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Paths to the e-Knowledge Future



Chapter 3

Paths to the
e-Knowledge Future

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Enterprises that have crafted a “jump shift” vision of the e-knowledge future understand that many aspects of the future are cloudy or unknowable. Standards, repositories, and marketplaces are still in the proof-of-concept or development stage. New generations of enterprise infrastructure applications and e-knowledge solutions are emergent, not fully developed. The solution is to progressively take actions that can develop infrastructures and competencies and increase readiness for e-knowledge. Leading-edge e-knowledge enterprises like USQ, the World Bank, and AAPS are taking an expeditionary approach to achieving their e-knowledge vision.

The Other “e”—Expeditionary

The emergence of an e-Knowledge Industry represents the collision of exponential technological adoption — the digitization and interconnection of knowledge — with systems and practices that prefer incremental change, traditional learning, and knowledge development. The emergence of the e-Knowledge Industry is likely to be disruptive and to create the opportunity for the emergence of “killer applications” (killer apps) — new ways of creating, managing, and sharing knowledge that are genuinely fresh and compelling experiences.


killer app graphic


Killer apps are the collisions between exponential technology adoption and systems that prefer to change in even, incremental ways. How disruptive they are depends on where in the technology curve they are introduced.

Downes and Mui, 1998

The forces shaping killer apps can be forecast, and changes in the value chain projected. However, the nature of the killer app itself cannot be predicted with elegant precision. Experience has shown that the best way to invent killer apps is through an iterative process of rapid prototyping, feedback, and continuous adaptation. For e-knowledge this process consists of:

  • rapid prototyping of new e-knowledge processes and experiences;
  • using learners and other knowledge users as perpetual focus groups, creating feedback loops; and
  • continuously adapting and changing the new processes and experiences, based on user feedback and responses to marketplace developments.

Over time, the new killer app emerges. The term that best describes these sorts of e-knowledge initiatives is “expeditionary.”

Expeditionary development of products, services, and experiences requires enterprise leaders to be open both to new opportunities and to genuine surprises. As Jame Brian Quinn (2002) suggests, “Today’s world calls for less hypothesis testing and more systematic observation.” In an expeditionary world, the advantage is seldom won by the enterprise with the best ideas, alone. Rather, advantage goes to those that are best able to introduce and continuously, progressively refine a new product and experience so that the killer app is discovered and emerges.


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  Expeditionary initiatives are low-cost probes into the future.

Donald Norris

One of the most important tools for an IT leader is a mental road map of the future.

Douglas Van Houweling