Are we talking and listening to each other?
The majority of humans living in developed countries no longer depend on land, labor, capital and energy as major means of production in their economies. In the 21st century, information and knowledge replaced land, capital and energy as the key factors of production in economies and business enterprises. Advances in technology and especially in information and computer technology have transformed the majority of the wealth creating work from physically based to knowledge-based firms make effective use of knowledge for their economic, business and social needs. This includes taping foreign knowledge as well as adapting and creating knowledge for specific needs. (Dahlamn, 2003). Economists and business leaders alike, recognize today that the only advantage that an economy or a firm has over its competitors is the knowledge and creative talents of its workers to efficiently solve problems.
Knowledge-based firms are composed of both knowledge-producing and knowledge-using firms and organizations. The first group consists of those firms or businesses whose major product is knowledge itself. It includes firms in industries such as information technology, software, biotechnology, universities, research institutions, etc. They are usually populated by engineers, scientists, programmers and designers, whose major output is research that ultimately leads to the development of new products and services. These organizations are driven not by machines or skilled workers, but by individuals engaged in research, design and development. The second group is composed of those organizations that manage process or convey information. This includes practically all other industries and services in both the private and public sectors. In these industries, effective handing and managing knowledge and information, rather than knowledge generation, are the keys to success (Corbet, 2001).
Unfortunately, current evidence suggests that a majority of knowledge-using firms or organizations in all sectors of the economy, including the hospitality/tourism industry, do not use or manage knowledge effectively. Authors such as Cooper (2006), Hjalager (2002), stamboulis and Skayannis (2003), Faulkner et al. (1994) and others, have suggested that many hospitality/tourism firms suffer from a systematic lack of transfer of knowledge from academic/research institutions to their shops. This phenomenon was confirmed for all other industries in a recent global study (Riedere and Ganter, 2006) that was carried out in 2006 by IBM. The study, which was conducted among the world’s top 750 CEOs and business leaders, revealed that though two-thirds of the respondents’ organizational efforts were targeted at discovering new business models and innovations, only 13% of these companies turned to academic or research institutions as a source for new ideas and driving innovations (Rieder and Ganter, 2006, p.36). I suspect that if we were to conduct a similar study among the top CEOs of hospitality/tourism businesses, the proportion of those turning to academic and research institutions as a sources for new ideas and innovations, would be significantly lower than 13 percent.
Though at the present time we do not know the exact nature of the barriers to the successful transfer of knowledge from knowledge-producing to knowledge-using hospitality/tourism organizations, I have my own hypothesis which I would like to share with the readers of our journal.
A few months ago I had the opportunity to participate in a “Cross-Talk” meeting which took place in Washington,
If this is indeed the case and practitioners are not reading or listening to what academics/researchers write or say, and academics/researchers do not really care if their work is being read or applied to real life situations, than both sides are to be blamed for not talking, listening and learning from each other. Academics/researchers should study issues that are of importance to hospitality/tourism practitioners and should make a concerted effort to write their reports in a succinct and business-oriented style. Hospitality/tourism practitioners, on the other hand, should take an interest in what the hospitality/tourism academic and research community does and recognizes the potential value of the knowledge that is generated from these research reports to the successful operation of their businesses. After all, that is exactly what happens in the life sciences, physical sciences, engineering and education fields, where academics, researchers and practitioners talk and listen to each other regularly and benefit from each other’s work and wisdom. This is what should happen in our industry as well.