Chapter 16. Informal networks and the management of knowledge

Another part in the jigsaw that makes an innovative organisation are informal networks. It is about knowing who to go to when you need a particular bit of information or a particular skill, who can do a particular job for you – or who is the right person to influence decision makers. Such informal networks played an important role in the Roche case study – but also in others. In the BBC case study it was Mike Milne's web-based discussion groups that helped to find people with the right skills and attitude. In the Black & Decker case it was Lawrie Cunningham knowing that Nigel Robson would take the design task and turn it into something really exciting.

In this chapter we will look at the role of informal networks for innovation and the way managers attempt to formalise such information networks, namely what is generally known as knowledge management.


The reason why informal networks are so important for innovative projects is that it is often not possible to identify what kind of skills will be needed in the course of the project at the outset. Therefore being able to find the right skills if and when required can be essential.

There is one issue with informal networks: they are 'owned' by individuals, and when these individuals move on so does their knowledge. In Chapter 13 we have already mentioned the negative implications downsizing and restructuring have for innovation, exactly for that reason. In the ...

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