Knowledge-Sharing is Key to Resilience in Recession

Last Updated Nov 4, 2008 2:22 PM EST

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Research says that the regions that will best withstand recession will be globally and locally connected, and open to knowledge-sharing. And this would seem to make sense for organisations themselves, too.

In its report, "Innovation by Adoption", London's National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) predicts that those UK regions with connections to businesses in a number of different global locations will be will be most resilient to recession. They will be more innovative because they will be able to build on new ideas and contacts from around the world.
Locations with good inter-regional communications will also withstand a downturn better. But all UK regions need to become better at accessing knowledge and sharing it.

Overall, the report claims the regions best equipped to withstand a recession are London, the East of England, the South East and the central area of Scotland.

This is largely because they are regions with the highest concentration of "Russell Group" universities (the group of 20 research-intensive universities that includes Bristol, Cambridge, Oxford and Warwick) , as well as R&D-intensive organisations.

This creates a virtuous circle of innovation and knowledge sharing, and ensures these locations can draw on new ideas to stimulate the local economy.

All UK regions need to diversify and make more international connections. "More attention needs to be paid to how firms and universities acquire new ideas from other places," says the report. The one-size-fits-all approach to regional development should be replaced by one that focuses on local strengths and weaknesses.

What applies regionally can also be scaled down to apply to a single company. The natural tendency of regions, and companies, is to close ranks during financial crisis, witholding knowledge that may seen as a key competitive advantage.

But the recession may be an opportunity to try what "Crowdsourcing" author Jeff Howe calls "competitive collaboration" -- an approach familiar to the gaming community but probably less so to many CEOs.

NESTA's CEO, Jonathan Kestenbaum, counsels UK businesses to resist that urge and instead learn "to respond flexibly and creatively".

Learning to collaborate without giving away competitive advantage may not come naturally, but if you apply NESTA's findings at corporate level, it will become a necessity for any company that wants to thrive in a downturn.

What do you think -- is competitive collaboration too risky to test out during a downturn?

(Photo: Mishel Churkin, CC2.0)