Knowledge is an important element in every individuals’ lives but most importantly to businesses to succeed in today’s economy. The successfulness of knowledge is through many strategies that involve knowledge creation, knowledge transfer and knowledge management and also by using advanced IT systems through the economic growth and change (Anantatmula and Kanungo, 2010). The purpose of this report is to evaluate how successful the KM strategies are in place within Apple and to evaluate how good practices are shared.
Also, the report will show how knowledge management tools are applied to achieve good practices supported by current models, theories, principles and practical examples. Apple is a technological based organisation that creates computers, software and many other Apple branded products. It is well-known globally with over 300 stores around the world (Apple Inc. , 2011). The products innovated by Apple have strong positioning within the market as they are differentiated from other organisations (Mintel, 2011). Apple creates a customer based profile by collecting information about customers and their preferences.
Customers register their details on Apples website when initial products and or services are purchased like iCloud, MobileMe and iTunes, as well as many other products and services. This detailed information is then aggregated and stored explicitly on database(s), used to help them provide more useful information to their customers so they can meet their needs, and to understand which parts of their products, and services are of most interest. How Apple uses human process and technology in Knowledge Management?
Knowledge Management shows how the human process can be used in the means of managing transfer of information which is known as tacit or explicit knowledge transfer. This is also developed in the process through learning, growth and innovation, which are influenced by key principles, tools and processes (Knowledge-Management-Online, 2009). All parts of the human process are of great importance, however, a crucial element is knowledge creation. This determines the original ideas that Apple produces. Innovation and solutions are highly expected from everyone that is involved with Apple.
Apple states that innovations take place in many forms and that there are new innovations created, found and developed every day (Apple Inc. , 2011). The process of organisational learning (Yang, et al. 2004) and memory (Walsh and Ungson, 1991. Cited in Akgun et al. , 2011) together with growth and innovation is highly presented by Apple. Through the change of innovative time, Apple has transferred knowledge in the company through the uses of training and also advanced technology, which is the most modern technique of knowledge transfer.
In the advanced technique of communication and knowledge management, technology is a process that is required by many organisations to share and apply the best knowledge. Also, it creates and is able to distribute a vast amount of knowledge at any time through the organisation, especially to key stakeholders of the organisation (Knowledge-Management-Online, 2009). The use of technology that allows better communication and knowledge transfer to occur are through the use of the web; internet, intranet and videoconferencing.
The advanced usage of technology can also be illustrated through team meetings, conferences and board meetings. Apples’ products are developing rapidly over time to continuously amaze their customers and to successfully achieve their customers’ needs, through the form of communication, where knowledge is shared and exchanged. The use of technology i. e. the internet have a range of sites relating to the most popular ideas that customers want to see next or what improvements can be made to current products (Apple Inc. 2011). How Apple illustrates KM theories of Knowledge transfer and knowledge exchange? Most corporations are able to stay competitive by allowing their workers, specialists and managers to work effectively; Apple also does this. The technologically advanced company stays ahead of its competitor’s and achieves its organisational goals and targets. Apple understands the marketing strategy by emphasising the use of knowledge management which provides them with opportunities to inherit information on management aspects.
Apple uses knowledge management theories of knowledge transfer such as; tacit and explicit knowledge, which enables them to create a learning environment for workers to follow and create competitively advantaged products. Tacit knowledge can be seen as a powerful element of knowledge transfer in which organisations achieve innovative success with (Alwis and Hartmann, 2008). Therefore, Apple uses it as an advantage to generate more ideas to create new innovative products, which results as an overall success factor for the company.
Apple uses the balanced scorecard to measure the performance of the company in perspective of the financial aspects, customer satisfaction, learning and growth (by training current and new employees) and internal business process (Kaplan and Norton ,1990). Using the balanced scorecard enables Apple to identify its strengths and weaknesses within the four perspectives of the balanced scorecard. It will help them analyse the areas that need improvements in order to make efficient and effective decisions.
Apple also shares knowledge through the platform of exercising BA (explicit to tacit knowledge), which is demonstrated through learning and training. This helps employee’s to have a heightened ability of understanding as they are the ones that are spreading and gaining new knowledge; therefore it builds their learning capability and performance. According to (Kikoski and Kikoski, 2004; Hall and Andriani, 2002), tacit knowledge is the less familiar, unconventional form of knowledge. It is the knowledge of which we are not conscious.
Tacit knowledge in its original form, is not codified, it is acquired by sharing experiences, through the usage of informal language, by observation and imitation. Apple uses it in order to share and transfer new knowledge amongst individuals so that they are able to learn from each other. Many researchers believe the main principal of knowledge management is knowledge exchange. It is the organisational managers’ position to exchange knowledge with their employees, by communicating information to them. One method Apple uses to exchange knowledge through is training.
The employees who work within the retail stores need to have all the knowledge on products the company sells and how these products work. The training process allows the employees to exchange knowledge through the use of questions. Nonakas’ framework can be referred to as knowledge shared through training which can be converted through internalisation. For example; the corporation of Apple deals with customers, so if workers within Apple wanted to learn customer service skills, they could learn by observing their colleagues dealing with customer’s queries and how they solve their problems.
Without transferring and sharing knowledge, Apple would not survive as an organisation and would definitely not be competitive. The effectiveness of applied KM in Apple Knowledge management systems, which facilitate the aggregation and dissemination of a company's collective intelligence, provide numerous benefits, including enabling innovation and improving process efficiency. Apple uses personal information collected from customers to help them develop, deliver, and improve their products and services.
They also use personal information for internal purposes such as auditing, data analysis, and research to improve Apple’s products, services, and customer communications. Apple applied the five learning disciplines by Peter Senge (1990) to create a learning organisation which are: Team Learning, Shared Visions, Mental Models, Personal Mastery and Systems Thinking. These five disciplines are essential to a learning organisation and should be encouraged at all times. The effectiveness of knowledge management is demonstrated through group meetings where a regular part of company practice allows more time for group discussions and team education.
This keeps the team well informed and increases every individual's input to their project. With the increased emphasis on team learning, a shared vision is naturally introduced, allowing members to work towards the same goal irrespective of their position. Swan’s community model can be related to Apple where knowledge is managed as a social construction, through community of practice. Apple gains from knowledge management through the exploration and sharing of knowledge amongst different social groups.
The effectiveness of Spenders model within Apple is that collective knowledge (social, tacit knowledge) is used, which represents all knowledge of social and institutional practice in solving problems. These theories demonstrate Apple’s effectiveness, by sharing the same goal and the ability to share knowledge in a variety of ways. Knowledge creation can be seen through the use of mental models, which every individual uses to interpret how the organisation, managers and team colleagues operate. As Cook and Brown (1999) suggested, the practice of organisation learning is created through the generic between knowledge and knowing (Jin, 2005).
The effectiveness of this applied knowledge management theory within Apple is shown within the learning process that was made more efficient through the use of mental models every individual in the organisation created, and this resulted to the teams being more coherent. Also, the effectiveness is shown through another learning discipline known as ‘Personal Mastery’, which is addressed by encouraging managers to set their staff challenging but reasonable goals, and to introduce training programs and system thinking, bringing all the learning disciplines together creating a successful knowledge management approach within the organisation.
The use and gain of competitive advantage in Apple by applying KM tools Ten years ago, it could be seen that Apple was not measuring up very well, in achieving competitive advantage (Emerald, 2008). However they have now will soon be larger than IBM (The Huffington Post, 2011). A current topic under debate is how Apple has managed to gain access to the same knowledge as their competitors, but managed to use that knowledge to obtain, and sustain competitive advantage (TED, 2011).
TED (2011) argues that Apples way of thinking, leading and communicating is different to its competitors, which is why it is a current market leader, and has competitive advantage. TED (2011) continues that when marketing Apple expresses their belief in their products, tacitly, which impacts on the consumer in an implicit way, which the Huffington Post (2011) also agrees to. This tacit expression can also be seen through storytelling (Sole and Wilson, 2002), as Apple are sharing their values, and through this building trust and commitment with their consumers.
Apple are more than aware of knowledge processes, and appear to understand the knowledge life cycle model (Leitch and Rosen, 2001) because of this understanding and collaboration, Apples KM Processes have been conducted very effectively and managed efficiently, which has supported them in achieving competitive advantage. KM tools which can be seen are Spenders’ organisational knowledge matrix (Spender, 1996) and Nonaka’s SECI model, (Nonaka, 1995), for gain and conversion of knowledge; and Hansen et al. (1999) for strategic management of knowledge.
An example of the combination of tools is collective knowledge converted through externalisation, and then codified, to support the manufacturing of the original iphone, (which undoubtedly gave the organisation first mover advantage) (Gadget Advisor, 2008), and then updating it; (e. g. new Apple iphone 5) to remain competitive (The Daily Mail, 2011). Apples’ individual, tacit knowledge, which is non-codifiable (e. g. : an element of Steve Job’s or top employees’ know-how) is protected and valued greatly, and undoubtedly used well, in order to sustain competitive advantage.
Some critics suggest that the tacit knowledge the organisation thrives on is down to Steve Job’s, being at the helm (The Huffington Post, 2011). However, others have suggested the competitive advantage accumulated over the years, to make it what it is today (The Huffington Post, 2011). Be that as it may, BBC (2011) have given empirical evidence to show that Apples’ shares have dropped since Steve Jobs resignation, but go on to say that the consumer should not see a reduction within the product quality. Conclusion
It can be seen that the technological market leader are doing very well, and if any elements of this report were to be taken away from Apples’ strategy the company as a whole may not own its so widely known competitive advantage. But be that as it may no other company can innovate like Apple as argued by pragmatic marketing (2011), therefore, they would be greatly missed if they disappeared. One of Apples’ competitive advantages appears to be its strong intellect and capabilities of its human capital. They support Apples’ main competitive advantage which is their innovated products.
A technological company needs to be innovative to partake within competitive advantage. Apple can be seen to be a big supporter in socialistic views, and transmittal of tacit knowledge, which far eastern, technological companies (Nonaka and Takeuchi,1995) believe is the way to success. As long as socialistic view is supported, Apple will be able to achieve innovative success and have the ability to create new and top standard products, which will not only bring them success but also improve the performance levels.
It can be seen that if all stakeholders do not continue to have updated knowledge transferred to them regarding the organisation and its products; or if Apple loses its understanding of knowledge sharing barriers (Riege, 2005) or KM processes; or if leadership do not offer good knowledge management approach choices so that the company and the customers continue to benefit; or Apple ceases its research on its consumers views, Apple could become unsuccessful.
Therefore, it can be argued that many KM tools however, the most dominant factor is not the gaining of the knowledge, but the way that it is used, transported and processed. Tacit knowledge appears to be the most underlying and valued factor. However, the other theories that have been mentioned in the report are necessary, and can be considered in all organisations for an improved understanding of the way knowledge is developed, preserved, transferred and applied.