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Much has been written about the impact of the millennium. The plain fact is that much of what will happen in the early part of the next millennium is already happening. This is not to underestimate the effects of such change. Perhaps chief among all of the major forces for change which will affect organisations and the way in which they are managed will be the impact of knowledge. The need to base competitive strategies on intellectual capacity will directly influence management processes and organisational forms. The paper draws on the work of influential writers in the area of environmental change and knowledge management and attempts to trace the linkages between the need to actively manage knowledge and the resultant changes in organisations. Finally the point is made that although we may be in a new information age the concept of knowledge based strategies is not new and predates the industrial revolution.
It is perhaps a human peculiarity to imbue dates with a significance which exceeds their importance. On a recent visit to Hong Kong I asked a resident what would follow after 1 July, "2 July" was the disarming reply The strategic focus of organisations throughout the millennium is a matter of extreme conjecture. This paper is more concerned with the extension into the millennium of those trends which are already apparent and challenging management to look again at those issues and concepts which have sustained their position. Not surprisingly it is against a view of the emerging environment that any discussion of new forms of strategy has to begin.
Much has been written in the latter part of the current millennium about internationalisation and turbulence. There is little doubt that these themes will continue but perhaps to them may be added some other significant emerging trends into the environment which will in turn affect the nature of competition and the basis of competitive advantage. Lester Thurow (1996) in his thought-provoking book, The Future of Capitalism, defines some of the current forces which he claims are giving rise to what he terms "punctuated equilibrium", a term borrowed from biology which describes a period of more rapid change than is normal, for example the extinction of the dinosaurs. It is beyond the scope of this paper to summarise all of Thurow's work; suffice it to say a few examples may be presented.
Perhaps chief among the key global drivers of change will be the emergence of intellectual power as opposed to resource power. Indeed the classical economist's theory of comparative advantage may well become redundant due to the power of intellect. The last 30 years have seen significant falls in raw material prices. We now live in an age where anything can be made and sold anywhere, which provides an interesting dilemma for companies of whether to chase lower labour costs or to invest in improved process and new product technology Any cursory glance at the industries for the next millennium, such as microelectronics, biotechnology, robotisation and telecommunications, amply demonstrates the proposition that any new theory of comparative advantage will be based on "brain power" rather than physical resource. Knowledge has always been important to the success of enterprise. What makes it so important today and into the next millennium is that it is perhaps the major determinant of revolutionary as opposed to evolutionary change.
Globalisation appears to be resolving itself into the growth of trading blocks with the inevitable tensions of individual nations having …