Knowledge is supplanting physical assets as the dominant basis of capital value and an understanding of how knowledge is acquired, shared and used is increasingly crucial in organisational success. Most business leaders recognise this, but few have yet succeeded in making it the pervasive influence on management practice that it needs to become; that has turned out to be harder than it looks.
Construction professionals are among those who have furthest to go, and most to gain. Design is a knowledge-based activity, and project managers, contractors and clients, as well as architects and engineers, have always learned from experience and shared their knowledge with immediate colleagues. But the intuitive processes they have traditionally used break down alarmingly quickly as organisations grow; even simply dividing the office over two floors can noticeably reduce communication. At the same time, increasingly sophisticated construction technology and more demanding markets are making effective management of knowledge ever more important. Other knowledge-intensive industries (such as management consultancy, pharmaceuticals, and IT), are well ahead in adopting a more systematic approach to learning and sharing knowledge, and seeing the benefits in improved technical capacity, efficiency, customer satisfaction and reduced risk.