Knowledge brokers are people who have the right knowledge or expertise to solve a problem (Loew, Bleimann, Murphy, 2004). Some organisations rely on external knowledge broker to fill in gaps in their expertise to carry out their project. An example would be an organisation who hires a technology consultant to build a website for their company because the organisation itself does not have an IT department.
Producers creates communities of consumer to gain knowledge of what their consumer want out of their products (Verona, et al., 2006). Some producer expands their network reach to build knowledge on the consumer by creating virtual communities of consumers in order to build product that meet their consumer needs. Certain organisations rely on individuals to develop, create and reuse knowledge (Dennis and Vessey). Leveraging on these individuals to manage knowledge cut down the cost of having to maintain a knowledge broker. Some company like Ducati created a tech cafe for motorcycle enthusiast to exchange ideas, knowledge, and expertise on motorcycle. Ducati has gained a lot of insights on what their customer wants out of their product by monitoring the conversation in Tech Cafe.
Social capital is an important asset that individual needs to develop to develop social network. Social capital elements such as networking and social interaction assist individuals to tap into external sources of knowledge (Yii-Renko et al, 2001). Establishing a good network of friends enable individuals to tap into privileged access of information and knowledge (Nahapiet & Gashal 1998). Building a network of social acquaintances stems from a durable obligation that arises from the feeling of mutual respect and gratitude between the individual within the social network (Bordieau, 1986). Organisations should invest their time building social capital to lower knowledge brokering cost.
Google is a search engine company who main revenue comes from advertisement. Google wants to expand their reach into the mobile market. As a ‘search engine’ company Google do not have the necessary knowledge resources to build a ‘Google’ mobile phone. Google build an operating system for mobile phone, Android, and they make it open source. As a result they attracted mobile phone manufacturer to create mobile phones that uses Android as their operating system. Google also attracts many technology enthusiasts to free applications and games for their Android phones.
Google uses its market presence in the search engine market and trust from their existing users to attract knowledge brokers to create products for Google with no cost to Google at all. Google invest in its social capital to build good relationship with their communities of techno geeks by building trust and mutual respect from their user. Investing in social capital lowers down the cost that Google has to bear to enter the mobile market. One of the most important lesson learned here is that it is very hard to measure the value of social capital. But we cannot deny that investing in it will bring a lot of benefit to our business.
Robert Loew, Udo Bleimann, Brendan Murphy (2004). Knowledge Broker Network Based On Communication between Humans. Paper for INC 2004 : Knowledge Broker Network
Gianmario Verona, Emanuela Prandelli and Mohanbir Sawhney (2006).Innovation and Virtual Environments: Towards Virtual Knowledge Brokers. Organisation Studies 27(6): 765-788. SAGE Publications. London.
Alan R. Dennis and Iris Vessey. Three Knowledge Management Strategies: Knowledge Hierarchies, Knowledge Markets, and Knowledge COmmunities. MIS Quarterly Executive.
Nahapiet, J., and Goshal, S. (1998). Social Capital, Intellectual Capital and The Organizational Advantage. The Academy Management Review. April.
Yii-Renko,H., Autio, E. and Sapienza H. J.(2001). Social Capital, Knowledge Acquisition, and Knowledge Exploitation in Young Technology-Based Firms. Strategic Management Journal, Vol. 22, No. 6/7, Special Issue: Strategic Entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurial Strategies for Wealth Creation, pp. 587-613.