Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi are widely recognized as among the most impactful scholars in the field of knowledge management. Not surprisingly for us, one of their recent works, published in Harvard Business Review in 2011, was listed as a contribution about ‘Ethics’. It was titled “The Big Idea: The Wise Leader” and the incipit sentence was as follows: “In an era when discontinuity is the only constant, the ability to lead wisely has nearly vanished. All the knowledge in the world did not prevent the collapse of the global financial system three years ago or stop institutions like Lehman Brothers and Washington Mutual from failing.” Hence, what Nonaka and Takeuchi considered ‘big’ was the idea of embedding leaders with a wisdom that was clearly long lacking. The impact of their message has been probably lower than that of their previous works. In fact, in the subsequent years, attention has been increasingly put on the challenge of managing ever bigger among of data; accordingly, the topic of ‘Big Data’ is attracting increasing interest. Just one year later, in 2012, Andrew McAfee and Brynjolfsson, discussing about Big Data as a ‘Management Revolution” and envisioning “Smart leaders across industries” dealing with this revolution, argued that: “as with any other major change in business, the challenges of becoming a big data–enabled organization can be enormous and require hands-on – or in some cases hands-off – leadership.” (McAfee and Brynjolfsson, 2012: 62). We would put the accent on the “hands-off” word, as we recognize and deeply agree not only on the revolutionary impact of Big Data on management but manly on the necessity to change the “decision making culture” of organizations (McAfee and Brynjolfsson, 2012: 61). Hence, discussion shifts again on different requirements, like a change in ‘culture’ and in the management ‘style’, that do not currently appear adequately embedded into the knowledge management framework, especially considering major trend like that of ‘Big Data’. Undoubtedly, data management represents one of the most relevant challenges both for decision makers and researchers interested in the governance of social and economic dynamics (Yew Wong & Aspinwall, 2005; Espejo & Reyes, 2011; Barile & Saviano, 2011; Chen et al., 2013). Fast progresses in Computer Science are increasing opportunities to acquire and manage big amounts of data in really short time. Of course, although requiring appropriate techniques and tools (Maimon & Rokach, 2005; Carayannis et al., 2006a, 2006b; Hey et al., 2009; Del Giudice et al., 2016), almost any disciplinary domain has an interest in the use of data that are at the basis of information and knowledge management (Beer, 1979; Espejo, 1996; Carayannis, 1999, 2010; Del Giudice et al., 2012; Di Nauta et al., 2015; Caputo et al. 2016; Caputo & Walletzký, 2017). However, it seems that this increasing focus on producing new data (i.e. the means) is attracting more interest than solving the problems (the goals) (Linoff & Berry, 2011): new data are produced to explain other data, giving rise to a circular dynamic that may not help solving the problems (Boyd & Crawford, 2012). The capability of humans to solve problems appears constantly improved despite the evidence of big failures in facing the most relevant humans’ issues. This situation is well synthesized by Schumacher who, analyzing the ‘problem of production’ in the modern era, argued that “the changes of the last twenty-five years, both in the quantity and in the quality of man’s industrial processes, have produced an entirely new situation – a situation resulting not from our failures but from what we thought were our greatest successes” (Schumacher, 2010: 6). This is the reality of our ever-smarter knowledge society. In this context of reflection, we wonder: Given the complex nature of the main issues to face on our planet, are ever-bigger amount of data and ever-smarter technologies what we only need? Would managing big data really help to better solve complex humans’ problems? Acknowledging the increasing relevance of managing big data, this paper does not neglect their importance as well as the value of ‘smart’ technologies to efficiently manage them. However, given the emblematic evidence highlighted by Nonaka and Takeuchi about the uselessness of all the knowledge available in the world to prevent the last collapse of the global financial system, the aim of this work is to stimulate reflections upon the kind of knowledge that is required to first prevent and then solve the big issues of humanity, i.e. complex issues for which decision makers seem to lack the support of useful information (Barile, 2009b).

Beyond Big Data: From smart to wise knowledge management

Saviano M.
;
Caputo F.
2018

Abstract

Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi are widely recognized as among the most impactful scholars in the field of knowledge management. Not surprisingly for us, one of their recent works, published in Harvard Business Review in 2011, was listed as a contribution about ‘Ethics’. It was titled “The Big Idea: The Wise Leader” and the incipit sentence was as follows: “In an era when discontinuity is the only constant, the ability to lead wisely has nearly vanished. All the knowledge in the world did not prevent the collapse of the global financial system three years ago or stop institutions like Lehman Brothers and Washington Mutual from failing.” Hence, what Nonaka and Takeuchi considered ‘big’ was the idea of embedding leaders with a wisdom that was clearly long lacking. The impact of their message has been probably lower than that of their previous works. In fact, in the subsequent years, attention has been increasingly put on the challenge of managing ever bigger among of data; accordingly, the topic of ‘Big Data’ is attracting increasing interest. Just one year later, in 2012, Andrew McAfee and Brynjolfsson, discussing about Big Data as a ‘Management Revolution” and envisioning “Smart leaders across industries” dealing with this revolution, argued that: “as with any other major change in business, the challenges of becoming a big data–enabled organization can be enormous and require hands-on – or in some cases hands-off – leadership.” (McAfee and Brynjolfsson, 2012: 62). We would put the accent on the “hands-off” word, as we recognize and deeply agree not only on the revolutionary impact of Big Data on management but manly on the necessity to change the “decision making culture” of organizations (McAfee and Brynjolfsson, 2012: 61). Hence, discussion shifts again on different requirements, like a change in ‘culture’ and in the management ‘style’, that do not currently appear adequately embedded into the knowledge management framework, especially considering major trend like that of ‘Big Data’. Undoubtedly, data management represents one of the most relevant challenges both for decision makers and researchers interested in the governance of social and economic dynamics (Yew Wong & Aspinwall, 2005; Espejo & Reyes, 2011; Barile & Saviano, 2011; Chen et al., 2013). Fast progresses in Computer Science are increasing opportunities to acquire and manage big amounts of data in really short time. Of course, although requiring appropriate techniques and tools (Maimon & Rokach, 2005; Carayannis et al., 2006a, 2006b; Hey et al., 2009; Del Giudice et al., 2016), almost any disciplinary domain has an interest in the use of data that are at the basis of information and knowledge management (Beer, 1979; Espejo, 1996; Carayannis, 1999, 2010; Del Giudice et al., 2012; Di Nauta et al., 2015; Caputo et al. 2016; Caputo & Walletzký, 2017). However, it seems that this increasing focus on producing new data (i.e. the means) is attracting more interest than solving the problems (the goals) (Linoff & Berry, 2011): new data are produced to explain other data, giving rise to a circular dynamic that may not help solving the problems (Boyd & Crawford, 2012). The capability of humans to solve problems appears constantly improved despite the evidence of big failures in facing the most relevant humans’ issues. This situation is well synthesized by Schumacher who, analyzing the ‘problem of production’ in the modern era, argued that “the changes of the last twenty-five years, both in the quantity and in the quality of man’s industrial processes, have produced an entirely new situation – a situation resulting not from our failures but from what we thought were our greatest successes” (Schumacher, 2010: 6). This is the reality of our ever-smarter knowledge society. In this context of reflection, we wonder: Given the complex nature of the main issues to face on our planet, are ever-bigger amount of data and ever-smarter technologies what we only need? Would managing big data really help to better solve complex humans’ problems? Acknowledging the increasing relevance of managing big data, this paper does not neglect their importance as well as the value of ‘smart’ technologies to efficiently manage them. However, given the emblematic evidence highlighted by Nonaka and Takeuchi about the uselessness of all the knowledge available in the world to prevent the last collapse of the global financial system, the aim of this work is to stimulate reflections upon the kind of knowledge that is required to first prevent and then solve the big issues of humanity, i.e. complex issues for which decision makers seem to lack the support of useful information (Barile, 2009b).
File in questo prodotto:
Non ci sono file associati a questo prodotto.

I documenti in IRIS sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11386/4704151
 Attenzione

Attenzione! I dati visualizzati non sono stati sottoposti a validazione da parte dell'ateneo

Citazioni
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.pmc??? ND
  • Scopus ND
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.isi??? ND
social impact