This book is indeed a seminal and therefore truly important work that embellishes the languishing and somewhat moribund arena of Indian management literature. The author Dr Parag Kulkarni is one of the country's most senior management consultants and his academic credentials for writing a book as important as this one are immaculate. He holds a PhD from IIT Kharagpur, and that's not all. Monarch Business School, located at Zug in Switzerland, has conferred a DSc on Kulkarni for his work on strategic knowledge innovation. Using his privately-owned firm as a handle, he maintains a busy management consultancy at an international level.
Against this kind of backdrop, speaking for Kulkarni, this reviewer is intrigued about why he sought to attract browsers' attention while the volume is on the stands by adding facetious doggerel as a subtitle. The so-called comic verse adorning the cover is composed to irregular rhythm and reads:
'Why cats don't take Part in the rat race.' Using this sort of subtitle in this very serious book is both unnecessary and demeaning. Kulkarni is lucky that this error has not affected the book primarily owing to the inherently high value of its contents. The latter has been endorsed by no less a personage than Ratan Tata: "A very interesting pathway for development of superior knowledge base."
Paradoxically, Tata's two lines appear on the cover exactly below the doggerel! If truth be told, Kulkarni has made it a bit difficult for the reader by treating 'knowledge innovation strategy' as high falutin management jargon. In fact, as the author himself lucidly explains, "Knowledge innovation strategy deals with a transition from competition centric to knowledge centric, analysis centric to synthesis centric and isolation centric to association centric knowledge building."
Generally, of course, it is a widely-accepted truism that the world is full of problems as well as full of opportunities. That being so, the rapidly changing business reality convinces one that, unlike the days of yore, quick-fix approaches hinged on competition-based initiatives will no longer work. The attitude now is that each of us wants to stand out from the crowd and be different.
And the way to be different is by building innovative products.
This is easier said than done. The two ways to successfully build innovative products are: One, by creating an uncontested knowledge space for oneself that no one else can penetrate; and two, using knowledge innovation to make and deliver unexpectedly useful and new products fetching stakeholders premium value.
Creating uncontested or 'private' knowledge space is precisely Kulkarni's modus operandi and he spells out his course of action in an Author's Note at the start of the book. He says in first person:
"This book is based on one decade of our study and research in knowledge management, intelligent systems and systemic knowledge building. The tools, techniques, ideas and framework introduced in this book are outcome of this research and are tested with organizations during our professional consulting and product building. It is our journey with knowledge partners that helped us take these tools to a level where they can be used by professionals."
Astutely, Kulkarni desists from naming even a single testing venue. This teaches us how and why his knowledge space is private!
The nub lies in the fact that Kulkarni has had exclusive insights into companies he has consulted with so he could find out what these companies are doing differently. He admits "having worked associatively with them to expand his knowledge boundaries."
Kulkarni warns us in passing that the ability to challenge knowledge continuously counts high in being able to become knowledge value creators.
It's all quite esoteric and other worldly to imagine companies taking big leaps to come out of competition-based paradigms.
Full marks to Kulkarni for taking his own big leaps to help change the world and make it better.
Sujoy Gupta is a business historian and corporate biographer